SBCC board expects enrollment decrease for spring semester

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MEGAN RANDOLPH, News Editor

At City College’s Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Executive Vice President Dr. Jack Friedlander explained the reasons behind the 4.7 percent drop in enrollment for fall 2015.

His presentation explored the 884 student decrease and what the college should expect in the near future. Out of 11 reasons listed that may lead to continued enrollment decline, number four cited that the high living expenses and rent prices deter students who can’t afford to study full-time.

“If you go into the community, nine out of 10 times it’s our students who are assisting you or serving you or helping you, ask them how many hours they work,” said Superintendent-President Dr. Lori Gaskin. “Because it is both sad and I believe unconscionable, that we are not providing more financial aid in form of living expenses, grants, to offset that so we can get these students in here full-time.”

Dr. Lori Gaskin, superintendent and president of Santa Barbara City College, 2015.
Daniel Feldtkeller
Dr. Lori Gaskin, superintendent and president of City College, 2015.

The most notable reasons given for the predicted continued drop were smaller high school graduating classes, higher standards for the Board of Governors Fee Waiver and increased admission rates at University of California schools and California State Universities.

Item number five also added the impending loss of 500-600 student beds at Tropicana Gardens, in a housing market where rents are skyrocketing.

“When rents go up four times the rate of inflation down here, where’s the money coming from?” Friedlander said. “So they’re working multiple jobs, you’re working multiple jobs, you’re not coming to school.”

Based on a survey sent to students who applied to City College but did not register for fall classes, the top three reasons students did not attend were because they’d chosen another school, had to attend another school because of costs or did not receive enough financial aid.

Trustee Marsha Croninger expressed her concern about some of the discussion regarding potential strategies to increase enrollment.

“I look at our mission as a public service, we are educating students, helping them achieve their life goals, in many cases a job,” she said. “And it makes me uncomfortable when we get to the elements that sound like a corporation competing for customers.”

However, board member Craig Nielsen disagreed, saying that advertising the college to prospective students cannot be avoided.

“You’re going to have to look at it in the same way, whatever terms you decide to use,” he said. “You can develop a new dictionary if you want, but we really need to reach out to the community. And the more we reach out, the more we will learn and the more students we can attract.”

Board member Veronica Gallardo also voiced her concern for the community members, who struggle alongside students in the housing crisis. During the meeting, the stronger economy was suggested as another potential reason for the enrollment decline, as more job availability means that fewer adults need to go back to school.

I hear the jobs, the economy’s better, jobs are better, but yet we have such a high percentage of families living in poverty. And so while they’re working, it’s not enough,” she said. “You’re talking 53 percent of adults in Santa Barbara living in poverty. What they’re looking for are, you know, things that are career enhancement for parents, for families.”

Friedlander addressed these concerns, saying there is more to be learned about the situation and adding that a focus group will be held on Dec. 1 to further understand the issues students face.

“It’s one thing to know we could serve these groups better,” he said. “But the question is how do you structure that to make it possible for them to take advantage of all we have to offer?”