Maria J. Avila / McClatchy Tribune
Beset by a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the state budget, California lawmakers in July slashed nearly $3 billion from 110 community colleges, the 23 California State University campuses and the 10 UC campus systems.
The CSU system was left to manage a $564 million budget deficit through a mix of furloughs, fee hikes, enrollment freezes, and the cancellation of courses.
Now, a week into the new semester, the aftermath of the massive cuts made to Californiaâ€™s three-tiered system of public education has sunk in for students.
Senior Sung-Kyu Lee, 26, said that two physics classes were cut from his class schedule. â€œIâ€™m a physics major so hopefully Iâ€™ll graduate on time.â€
At Fresno State, the first week of school went as most CSU and UC officials anticipated. Classroom sizes increased and students were left scrambling to find classes to fill the voids left in their schedules from previously dropped courses.
In some classrooms the logjam of students forced many to go without a place to sit. Professors were also told not to issue permission numbers to students looking to add courses in compliance to university requests.
Still, hopeful students waited through entire class periods.
This semester, Fresno State shed nearly 1,000 of its class offerings, including more than 600 one-on-one sections, for an estimated 21,170 students. Last year, 4,776 class sections were offered, including 925 supervised individual study sections, for 19,245 undergraduate students and 2,483 graduate students.
Provost and vice president for academic affairs William Covino said in spite of the reductions to all areas, the university has been careful to maintain as much accesses to as many of the high demand courses as possible.
â€œWeâ€™re simply trying to accommodate students and provide them access to classes with reduced offerings,â€ Covino said. Among the most demanded courses are lower level undergraduate courses needed to satisfy graduation requirements, such as Biology 10 and English 5B.
â€œStudents are having a much more difficult time then we would like them to have,â€ Covino said. â€œBut the faculty and department chairs are being very responsive in trying to create alternatives for students.â€
One such alternative is bringing back intersession programs for students looking to catch up on courses for their degree. The program, which has been on hiatus at Fresno State for seven years, will be offered through the department of Continuing and Global Education.
The winter intersession, scheduled in January and the May-June intersession, are three week programs which offer a number of courses that state funding was unable to support in the fall.
â€œItâ€™s a completely self-supported program,â€ said director of the Continuing and Global Education Cyndy Trent. Funding from the program comes from student fees.
More than 30 courses will be offered in the winter intersession, according to Trent. However, Students are limited to taking four class units.
â€œItâ€™s a great chance for students to accelerate the process to degree completion,â€ Trent said. â€œBut its not going to solve everything. The program is intended to relieve some of the pressure from the cancellation of courses.â€
Since July, university officials have advised students to consult with their academic counselors to make sure that they get the classes they need to graduate.
â€œWe have been trying to point students in the direction of alternative classes and tried to help them understand they may not have as much selection as they have had in past semesters,â€ Covino said.