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Struggle for higher education
Fewer local students enroll in college; economy, budget cuts to blame
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Fewer local high school graduates are enrolling in both two –year community colleges and four-year universities, despite the closeness of California State University, Stanislaus. - photo by Fewer local high school graduates are enrolling in both two year community colleges and four-year u
Local paths after high school Turlock High

2009                                      2010

4-year college  23%              4-year college  21%

2-year college  46%              2-year college  41%

Work                11%              Work                6%

Vocational        7%               Vocational        8%

Military            3%                Military            3%

Unknown         10%              Unknown         21%


·         Turlock High students enrolled at MJC in 2008: 123

·         Turlock High students enrolled at MJC in 2009: 111

·         Turlock High graduates enrolled in CSUS for fall 2008 semester: 46·         Turlock High graduates enrolled in CSUS for fall 2009 semester: 39·         Turlock High graduates enrolled thus far in CSUS for fall 2010 semester: 42 Pitman High

2009                                      2010

4-year college  27%              4-year college  25%

2-year college  56%              2-year college  50%

Work                7%               Work                 8%

Vocational        6%               Vocational        6%

Military            4%                Military            4%

                                              Unknown          7%


·         Pitman High students enrolled at MJC in 2008: 157

·         Pitman High students enrolled at MJC in 2009: 133

·         Pitman graduates enrolled in CSUS for fall 2008 semester: 67·         Pitman graduates enrolled in CSUS for fall 2009 semester: 65·         Pittman graduates enrolled thus far in CSUS for fall 2010 semester: 47       Information provided by Turlock High registrar, Pitman High registrar, California State University, Stanislaus and Modesto Junior College.  

Over the next few weeks college freshmen across the state will move into their dorms, set their class schedules and buy those expensive textbooks. But one thing will be different this year — fewer Turlock High School and Pitman High School graduates will occupy the college halls this fall.  

The down economy, a lack of guidance at home and state higher education budget cuts are just a few of the obstacles local students are facing.

“It is frustrating for a lot of our kids,” said Marie Peterson, Turlock High School assistant principal. “Kids have to apply much broader now to get into at least one school.”

The down economic times have not only taken a toll on local households, but it is also limiting higher education resources that were once offered to students with ease.

 University dreams at a stall 

Less than a quarter of the 2010 graduating class from Turlock High and Pitman High had plans to attend a four-year college this fall, according to numbers provided by the Turlock High and Pitman High registrars. Only 21 percent of Turlock High graduates and 25 percent of Pitman High graduates reported that they would be attending a four year college — a two percent drop from both high schools in 2009.

The Turlock Unified School District administration believes that the cuts in state funding are mostly to blame.

 “Due to budget constraints, several four-year colleges have tightened up freshman enrollment, eliminated staff and courses, decreased financial aid, eliminated student grants and increased fees,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services. “All of which contribute to the slightly lower four-year college enrollment percentages and certainly the two-year community college enrollment decline.”

After taking on a $14 million budget deficit last year, California State University, Stanislaus canceled winter term, increased student fees by 20 percent and instituted furlough days for all staff.

The entire CSU system also declared impaction for spring 2008 freezing the enrollment process.

“There was no room for students and no money for classes,” said Lisa Bernardo, CSU Stanislaus interim associate vice president for enrollment management. “You have to be able to meet the demand of the students. You have to have classes available for the amount of students enrolled.”

For the past three years, there has been an average of 42 Turlock High graduates that have been enrolled at CSU Stanislaus and an average of 59 Pitman High graduates enrolled at CSU Stanislaus, according to numbers provided by CSU Stanislaus. But this fall, so far, there is an increase of three Turlock High students and a decrease of 18 Pitman High students who have enrolled.

Despite the three-student jump from Turlock High, Peterson has noticed that CSU Stanislaus is no longer the “safe” school for local students as they apply for colleges.

“CSU Stanislaus has tightened up admissions due to budget cuts,” Peterson said.


Turlock High staff have been encouraging graduating students to apply to seven to eight schools now instead of a couple of schools to ensure that they at least get into one four-year college, she said.

 Up the ante 

With an unemployment rate of 17.3 percent in Stanislaus County, more professionals are hitting the books to increase their value in order to land a job or keep their job. This is creating a more competitive environment with stricter requirements to get into the colleges.  

Bernardo has noticed that more students transferring from a two-year college have been applying earlier and being more prepared with the application process, she said.

“Transfers are ready,” she said. “And students are beginning to understand.”

CSU Stanislaus spokesperson Eve Hightower also noticed a change in the way applicants have been applying for the college, she said.

“They realize there is limited space,” Hightower said. “There has been a change in the way applicants are handling the process. It is more competitive.”

In January 2008, the CSU Office of the Chancellor announced that campuses are no longer permitted to admit or enroll individuals who have lower division transfers, upper division transfer applicants who are not fully eligible for admission, applicants seeking a second baccalaureate degree or unclassified post-baccalaureate applicants.

In the past, CSU’s were able to accept students who had lower division transfers but now they must meet the minimum requirement of transfer units or they will not be accepted, Bernardo said.

Even students who have been accepted into the college programs may need to take remedial classes because they are behind in their English or math, Peterson said.

“Most kids need remedial courses,” she said. “(Remedial courses) were the first things affected by the cuts. There aren’t enough sections available.”

CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani also mentioned that there are less students meeting the requirements to go straight into a four-year college.

Shirvani suggests parents take on a more active role in the preparation of their child’s college career and motivate them to take on the requirements needed for a guaranteed acceptance into a four-year college.

 The long wait 

By the beginning of July, 78 percent of fall classes were filled at Modesto Junior College and new students had not even enrolled yet, according to Linda Hoile, MJC spokesperson.

“Everyone gets accepted,” Hoile said. “Getting into classes is the problem.”

The majority of the 2010 graduating class from both local high schools, elected to take the two-year college route with 41 percent of Turlock High graduates and 50 percent of Pitman High graduates, according to numbers provided by Turlock High and Pitman High registrars. Those numbers have decreased by five percent at Turlock High and six percent at Pitman High compared to 2009, giving MJC one dozen fewer Turlock High students and two dozen fewer Pitman High students this fall.  

The culprit for the over-enrolled campus and long waiting lists — the economy.

“Every time the economy goes bad the enrollment goes up,” Hoile said.

 A report titled “Ready or Not, Here They Come” released in September from the California Postsecondary Education Commission predicted an increase in community college enrollment over the next 10 years that, without increased state funding, will push some colleges over the brink and severely challenge California’s promise of offering a college education to all.To catch up to the rising enrollment the state would need to allocate funding for at least a three percent enrollment growth annually, according to the commission. The state is currently not providing any funding for enrollment growth.

“More students are applying, there is a greater demand and it is harder to get classes,” Hoile said.

MJC alone is taking a $7 million cut for the 2010/2011 school year, she said.

With more funding cut, local students will need to embrace their competitive behavior and brave the long waiting lists for classes. However Ferriera believes the waiting lists just discourages them from furthering their education.

“The competition to get into a community college is fierce as our recent graduates are forced to compete against four-year college students who have returned ‘home’ for various reasons, people who are going back to school to improve job marketability, and those who simply don’t meet the four-year college entrance requirements,” Ferriera said.

Ferriera has also seen MJC and Merced College outreach to the two high schools come to an end.

Hoile blames the economy for the lack of jobs and money, driving professionals and students to further their education resulting in an impacted campus with little classes to offer, she said. “Money is a huge factor,” Hoile said. Some students may not be able to afford to attend a CSU or University of California school, she said. Some families have lost their jobs in the economy and can’t afford the tuition of a four-year college. “But whether the prices are higher at the CSU or not — we have vocational, technical and educational programs here that they can’t take at a CSU,” Hoile said. No matter what the deciding factor is that plays into fewer local students attending college, community colleges and four-year universities alike are struggling to provide students with the educational needs that they once were able to provide.  “It’s very dismaying to not be able to meet the educational needs of our community,” Hoile said. “The demand is high, but the supply is low.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.