First-day wrinkles may furrow many a brow today as the fall semester gets under way at Modesto Junior College. About 20,000 students will be vying for elbow room with construction in full swing on both campuses.
"Enrollment is strong," Robert Nadell, vice president of student services said last week. "We're ready, but we're probably going to have more students than we can accommodate."
Despite greater demand because of the recession, state funding limits classes, interim Chancellor Joan Smith said. Community colleges offer laid-off workers new skills and are the low-cost alternative for high school grads, she said.
Classes, as of Thursday, were 88 percent filled, with the remaining openings mostly in more advanced classes, Nadell said.
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"What's not available are the basic skills, basic education classes," he said. The college recognizes the problem, and is trying to be "very strategic" with how it uses limited funds to fix it.
"We are adding (classes), what we call shadow sections," Nadell said, explaining these are basic math and English classes to be added once the greatest needs are clear and funding is nailed down.
"We're trying to respond," he said, noting the college has documented that 70 percent of students enter needing pre-college English and 80 percent need pre-college math.
Further complicating the need for all those English and math classes is reduced classroom space on the east campus.
The main classroom building, Founders Hall, is being renovated this year. Classes and computer labs were moved westward to rows of portable classrooms nicknamed "Pirates Village."
Today, faculty and staff plus volunteers will be around the village helping students find their classes, Nadell said.
Pirate Village takes up what was a favorite parking lot at Tully Road and Stoddard Avenue. The loss of that lot, plus a smaller lot being used as a staging area for construction along Coldwell Avenue, will reduce parking at the already space-challenged east campus.
"I'm sure residents around here won't like us again this year," Nadell said with a sigh. He suggested students consider parking on the west campus and taking the free shuttle that runs between campuses, rather than parking along streets in the neighborhoods around the east campus.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.