By Carleen Surrena
First students have to find the classes they need. Then, pray they’re open. Then, try to fit as many as they can into a tight schedule. Imagine finally figuring it all out, only to have one of the classes cancelled.
The first week of the fall 2015 semester at Las Positas College saw 22 classes cancelled. The departments that have seen their classes cancelled include: English, health, business, economics, kinesiology, mass communications, marketing, computer network technology, automotive technology, learning skills, occupational safety and health, psychology, and radiation. Most suffered casualties from the low enrollments that are plaguing the district and the state, and students were left with the sting of having a class they needed for transfer snatched away. Many were left to cram from another offering to fulfill their financial aid requirements.
“Including all the divisions on campus, that is probably a pretty typical semester,” said Dean Don Miller of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences. “Sometimes those classes (only) have zero or one or two students enrolled in them. It just depends upon the semester and the specific class, the needs of the students, and the availability of faculty to teach a class.”
Forget that students may need one of these classes to graduate and move on to a four-year college. Forget that some students receive financial aid for only so much time and cannot cover another semester if a class is cancelled. A cancelled class leaves limited options about finding another class that may satisfy the requirement needed to complete a degree and allow a student to move up.
“If one of my classes is cancelled, it becomes an issue,” said Andrew Villar, a 20-year-old student who has attended Las Positas and is now in his third year. “Those are potential units I’m losing out on and can’t get them and have to wait another semester or go to another school.”
Several factors can lead to a class being cut. Low enrollment is the usual culprit. That’s what happened in the case of the Mass Communications Multimedia Reporting class. An email was sent to students stating, “Due to low enrollments, Mass Communications 35 has been cancelled.” It goes on to suggest that the students consider taking another course, such as Mass Communications, Introduction to Public Relations and to check all other class offerings under the Mass Communications program.
“We try to avoid it at all costs,” said Miller. “It’s a process we go through.”
Aside from low enrollment, other factors may contribute to the cancellation of a class.
The Learning Skills Department, which took the biggest hit this semester, had four classes that were cancelled: Intro to Learning Disabilities, Learning Skills-Reading, Learning Skills Basic Math and Success in Algebra. These classes were cancelled because of low enrollment and because instructor Paula Schoenecker, who teaches most of the classes, took a sabbatical leave for the fall.
Student schedules may be affected and future planning put on hold, but the college’s future isn’t affected. Every year the state legislature designates a certain amount of money for colleges to use. And if a class is cancelled, the funds are still there for the college to use.
“Future funding isn’t impacted,” said Diana Rodriguez, vice president of Student Services.
The college can offer other classes in place of the cancelled class so that it stays within the allocated amount of the units funded by the state. Another option for students may to be to look at outlying community colleges or universities that may offer a similar class. Miller also encouraged students to reach out to counselors for help as well as the deans on campus.
Whether class cancellations are affecting students who need to transfer or for those who aren’t in a hurry to transfer, they are still happening. Each semester there are classes that are cancelled with only limited options on how to go about finding another class. There is help when trying to find the course at another school, or suggestions by counselors or deans as to where to go from here, but the bottom line is that if the class is cancelled and another class does not transfer, a student will have to wait another semester for the class needed to move on to the next level.