It may not seem like fall, with leaves still on trees and thermometers showing numbers reminiscent of video game high scores.
But for students at California State University, Stanislaus, fall officially started Monday, with the first day of classes for fall semester.
“There’s always an electricity around the campus when the fall semester begins,” said university spokesman Dave Tonelli.
It’s a major ramping up from the slower summer semester, which sees a smaller number of students mainly interested in getting ahead or catching up. Fall marks a return to the hustle and bustle of a major university, with more than 7,000 students enrolled.
Some of those students returned to campus on Aug. 14, when the on-campus dormitories officially opened for move in. And many of those on-campus residents were stepping foot on campus for the first time, to begin their first year of college.
For many of those fresh on campus, including Kimberly Zoteca, a transfer from Merced College, buying books – and learning about the hidden costs of college – was priority number one. A book for one of Zoteca’s classes was $200.
“I still have a couple more books to go, so we’ll see how it turns out,” she said.
Those book costs come on top of steadily increasing college fees, up 26 percent from a year ago due to declining state budgets. Since the 2006-2007 school year, CSU system costs have more than doubled from $2,520 to $5,472 for the 2011-2012 year.
While the costs keep going up, new students still see the value of college. According to Tonelli, the university anticipates an enrollment about equivalent to a year ago, but final numbers won’t be available until after the add/drop period completes.
Shineka Tyler, also a transfer from Merced College, was one of those enjoying her first day on the CSU Stanislaus campus Monday.
“The campus is great,” a beaming Tyler said.
And how were those vaunted university classes turning out?
“This is my first class,” Tyler said. “I haven’t actually gone to school yet.”
CSU Stanislaus tries to make its new residents at home, with activities like a welcome back luau, bowling night, and tie-dye party for dorm residents. Students at large were offered college survival tips on Monday, with university-sponsored music, games, and pool parties across campus leading up to a campus-wide “Block Party” Friday night.
And, while there’s lots of fun and games, the college aims to address academic concerns – like landing the perfect course load – as well. Expanded advising hours all week long are intended to aid students in graduating on time, something CSU Stanislaus is renowned for as one of the top 12 schools in the nation for retaining and graduating students, per the American Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities.
Despite all the university-provided help, college can still be tough for freshmen, students said.
“We were all in their shoes once, so we know how crazy it gets,” said Hugo Que, a junior and member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Que sat at a booth on campus with his fraternity brothers on Monday, talking to potential new members and preparing for the upcoming Greek recruitment period. But more than that, Que and his brothers said they were there to offer help to freshman, pointing them in the right direction of a classroom or answering any questions they may have.
Dan Gasparo, a sophomore, said on his first day of freshman year he stumbled over to the TKE booth, lost and in search of a helping hand. He’s since joined the organization and integrated into the campus community, something he thinks more freshmen might be interested in this year than last based on the open, exciting, “willing to be involved” people he’d met so far on Monday.
“People actually want to do something,” Gasparo said with a smile.
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