MERCED — This week, Samantha Sandoval, 17, has spent more time than she'd like to at Merced College — and she's not even a student.
The Buhach Colony High School senior arrived at the Merced College campus at 3 a.m. Tuesday to discover people camped out in sleeping bags and chairs, waiting to register for summer and fall classes.
At 7 a.m., she received a yellow ticket with a waiting list number and was told to return at noon. She came back two more times, then finally, at 2 p.m. she was told by a counselor that all yellow card holders needed to wait in line Wednesday morning starting at 7.
For Merced College, Monday and Tuesday have seen record numbers of students registering for summer and fall classes, said Anne Newins, Merced College vice president of Student Personnel.
Usually, the school will register 700 to 800 students a day for various semesters, Newins said, but Tuesday 2,500 to 3,000 students showed up.
Of those students, Newins said, they registered 1,300.
"This is like being hit by a tornado," she said. "Needless to say, there are a lot of unhappy people."
Merced College's summer and fall semester walk-up registration for new students and former students started Monday. New students were only allowed to register in person because some need assistance in choosing the right courses. For returning students, online registration began April 14.
Tuesday afternoon, dozens of frustrated students were lined up along the length of the Communications Building according to their waiting list number. Many had been in line since 7 a.m.
"It's very stressful and aggravating," said 20-year-old Danielle Garcia. "People will cut you in line."
Many factors in play
The increase in the number of students is a combination of factors: a record number of high school graduates; unemployed workers returning to school to seek new training; and many students enrolling at other community college districts have been turned away because those schools have cut sections, according to Newins.
Newins also said that some students, who can't get into a California State University during spring semester anymore because of state budget cuts, are sticking around at community college for an extra semester.
Greg Soto, a Merced College counselor, said that at least five students were accepted into University of California schools or CSUs, but opted to attend Merced College because of the less expensive price tag.
With a record number of registrants, it may mean that some students won't get the classes they want.
This year, Merced College cut 140 classes because of budget cuts, and next fall, cuts should remain the same, said Marianne Totorici, Merced College vice president of instruction.
"We are one of the few colleges that have been able to maintain a summer that is similar to last year's," she said. "At other colleges like Modesto they made reductions, and now we are seeing students from other districts, and it's put a strain on us."
As of Tuesday afternoon, some of Merced College's fall general education courses, such as English and math, already have waiting lists.
Several sections of freshman English and college level math had waiting lists that were full.
This means that some students may not get a full class schedule or they won't follow a traditional sequence, Newins said.
Students should still be able to finish in two years if they are college-ready, Soto said. If students need some remediation it may take more time.
In any case, look for long lines.