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California community colleges board establishes system-wide enrollment priorities

By Naheed Rajwani

Sept. 28, 2012 2:17 a.m.

Starting in fall 2014, California community college students looking to transfer to UCLA may be able to register for their courses earlier than students who do not have immediate plans for exiting the community college system, officials announced this month.

The modified registration program is designed to ensure students seeking job training or degree attainment, or those planning on transferring, get the classes they need, according to a press release from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

The changes are also intended to reward students who make progress toward their educational goals.

As mandated by law, active-duty servicemen and veterans, as well as current and former foster youth, will continue to get the first pick on courses.

But students with priority registration privileges under the recent policy change will get to sign up for classes as part of the second wave of signups, according to the press release.

To qualify, new students must attend orientation. Continuing students must be in “good academic standing” and must have completed fewer than 100 units.

The changes come at a time of steep cuts in state funding ““ nearly $809 million ““ for the state’s community college system, said Sonia Ortiz-Mercado, the dean of matriculation in the California Community Colleges system.

Many students have had a hard time enrolling in the classes they need because colleges have had to cut the number of courses they offer as a result of budget cuts, she said.

Historically, community college students with a greater number of units have been given priority registration, said Paige Marlatt Dorr, a spokeswoman at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

A task force created by the system, however, recently found that students with more units do not always have a greater success rate, she said.

“(Students) might be racking up units without having an educational goal or an incentive to (get) good grades,” she said.

Students go through the community colleges system for many different reasons, such as receiving vocational or remedial training, enrichment, or to transfer to a four-year university, said Susan Wilbur, the executive director of admissions at UCLA.

Matthew Stidham, a third-year history student, completed an honors program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo before he transferred to UCLA this year.

Though he had priority registration for classes because of the honors program, he said the new guidelines may help students transfer to a four-year university or obtain an associate’s degree in a more timely fashion.

One of his classes, for example, lost about eight students as the semester progressed. Many students had petitioned to be in the course at the beginning of the semester, but could not enroll because it was full at the time, Stidham said.

“It just seems unfair for students to (sign up for) a class and then drop out later if they think it’s too hard,” he said.

The new regulations will require schools to notify students who are at risk for academic probation and may lose their registration priority, Ortiz-Mercado said.

“It does not mean they’re not going to get to register at all, it just means their enrollment priority is going to be lower,” Ortiz Mercado said.

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Naheed Rajwani
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