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Low enrollment leads to fewer classes

Valley College enrollment numbers have been declining, leading to cancellation of a high number of classes.

By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

A gradual decline in enrollment at Valley College has led to a slew of classes being canceled across multiple departments.

Since the 2015-16 school year, Valley has experienced a slow drop in enrollment. According to data from the Los Angeles Community College District, 27,959 students were enrolled during that time, as opposed to the 26,658 enrolled in the 2017-18 school year. The dip has led to many classes with a low number of students to be canceled, which have hurt several departments.

According to William Wallis, the English department chair, the school has cut 90 classes this semester, which he says accounts for approximately 11 or 12 percent of the total number of classes; his department alone accounts for 15 of them. However, half of those classes were basic skills courses that were archived due to the passage of Assembly Bill 705, which stipulates that a community college must maximize the possibility that a student will complete their transfer-level English and math courses within a one-year timeframe.

The English department is working with affected students. Cutting classes does not hurt a single student, according to Wallis, but he did note that the smaller number of classes has negatively impacted a large majority of his faculty. The English department has 14 full-time faculty members and over 50 adjuncts. In the fall, every adjunct had two classes, but cancellations this semester has severely cut into that.

“This spring, almost everybody has one, so cut your income in half,” said Wallis. “That’s a problem, and it was painful; it’s painful to do, it’s painful to see.”

The art department had around four classes canceled: Art 101, 111, 112 and a studio art class. According to art Department Chair Eugenia Sumnik-Levins, although there are still several sections of Art 101, canceling one of them is almost unheard of.

“For the art history class, the contemporary art class and the current art events class, [students] have no option,” Eugenia said. “If they’re transferring to a UC, they’re just not getting the breadth that they need.”

History, humanities, law, political science (HHLPS) Department Chair Michelle Lewis said six classes were cut, and noted that her department faculty seems to have been teaching fewer classes over the past two years. Although Lewis said there are plenty of options for affected students, the cuts hurt the faculty the most, particularly the part-time faculty.

“They’re the ones that are really hurt when we have to cut classes,” Lewis said, “because for them, it’s their job.”

According to Dean of Academic Affairs Matthew Jordan, classes with at least 15 students enrolled are considered “safe.” A few weeks before each semester starts, each class is reviewed to see if they meet a certain threshold, such as having at least five or 10 students enrolled. If they do not, they are cut by the time school starts. Jordan explained that the cost of each class is the same -- regardless of size -- and that if every class were kept open, the school would go under.

“If every class had 15 students, the school would go down because we wouldn’t be able to pay our expenses,” Jordan said.

Jordan also explained that enrollment in college tends to fluctuate depending on the state of the economy, dropping when the economy is strong and rising when it is in a recession.

College enrollment has been declining across the country for the past few years. According to data from LACCD, at least five other colleges from the district, including Pierce College and Southwest College, are also experiencing a decline. Additionally, fall 2018 enrollment in two-year colleges nationwide was down 3.2 percent from the previous year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.


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