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Live discussion: community college students struggle after cuts

October 16, 2012 |  1:49 pm

A series of Times stories has tracked the state's two-year colleges buckling under the stress of funding cuts, increased demand and a weak record of student success.

Times education editor Beth Shuster and reporter Stephen Ceasar will join city editor Shelby Grad in a Google+ Hangout to discuss the crisis in California's community college system at 3 p.m. PDT.

Community college students are increasingly being forced to commute long distances and between multiple campuses to get the classes they need after budget cuts resulted in course reductions systemwide, the Times' Carla Rivera reported Tuesday:

Over two decades, the percentage of such students has more than doubled, from about 2.2% in 1992 to about 5.2% in 2011. Last fall, about 69,665 students attended two schools, nearly 5,000 went to three schools and about 400 to four or five schools, according to data from the California Community Colleges chancellor's office. (The numbers include students who take online classes; officials are unsure how many are in that category.)

Most two-year colleges have also eliminated winter and summer sessions, further reducing the availability of classes students need to earn a degree or transfer to a four-year university. Some high-demand classes are offered only once during the academic year, leaving students with a stark choice: Wait and delay their education or shop around and find the course elsewhere.

FULL COVERAGE: California Community Colleges

Earlier this month, Ceasar reported that many students are forced to take three units or even fewer, rather than the full 12-unit course load, because classes are so impacted. From Caesar's story:

It's a product of years of severe budget cuts and heavy demand in the two-year college system. The same situation has affected the Cal State and UC systems, but the impact has been most deeply felt in the 2.4-million-student community college system — the nation's largest.

At Pasadena City College, nearly 4,000 students who are seeking a degree or to transfer are taking a single class this fall. About 63% are taking less than 12 units and are considered part time. The school has slashed 10% of its classes to save money.

The lives of some community college students have become a slow-motion academic crawl, sometimes forcing them to change their career paths and shrink their ambitions.

We invite you to join in on the conversation by posting comments below or onto The Times’ Facebook and Google Plus pages or on Twitter using the #asklatimes hashtag.


Crisis slows students' progress to a crawl

More students commuting to multiple campuses

FADING DREAMS: California community colleges

Photo: Norphesa Jones listens to her math professor at L.A. Trade Tech. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times