January 25, 2012 (El Cajon) -- Perhaps it is because of spring – that time of year of fresh starts and renewed resolve – that despite the challenges of the day, an air of optimism prevails at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.
The estimated 19,000 students returning to Grossmont College on Monday were welcomed by two major campus facilities reopening after a year and a half of construction and remodeling.
At Cuyamaca College, an improved thoroughfare, as well as a refinished gym floor paid for by the college district’s foundation, are some of the new developments for the 10,000-student campus.
“We’re going to have a tremendous semester in spite of the difficult budget times,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “Our colleges remain firmly rooted to their mission of opening the doors of opportunity to our students to participate in the American dream.”
Despite the huge hit the state budget crisis has dealt the district – a $6.3 million cut and 600 course sections slashed this year on top of the $15 million and 1,000 course-section losses in the past two years -- good financial planning has the colleges well prepared for contingencies. The funding reductions by the state had been anticipated and planned for by the district, which thwarted mid-year cuts.
“In most instances mid-year budget changes would be alarming news, but in our case, the current-year budget was developed with those cuts in place, so we are able to proceed into the spring semester as planned,” said Governing Board President Bill Garrett. “I am happy to say we had the foresight to minimize the potential negative impact upon our students and employees.”
Emphasizing a “positive, festive note” to the start of the new semester, Grossmont College President Sunita “Sunny” Cooke joined convocation attendees this week in wearing a plastic boa and paper hat to the New Year’s-themed event.
“When the state of California gives you lemons year after year, we at Grossmont College keep making lemonade,” Cooke said. “At Grossmont College, we can stretch a dollar and keep doing the things we need to do. Despite hardships, fiscal constraints and other obstacles, Grossmont College continues to do exceptional work for its students.”
Shortly before classes began, the colleges were reporting that about 95 percent of the available courses were full, and the waitlist for class seats has grown to more than 22,000. Enrolling in classes poses a particular challenge for new students who are among the last to register because of the priority given to returning students and others such as military veterans.
Although students are experiencing frustration in getting the classes they need, both colleges are taking steps to help them make the most of their education.
Grossmont College’s student affairs office is hosting “Week of Welcome!” – WOW – Jan. 23-25 with on-campus activities and events, such as information booths, music and giveaways, an open house for the Associated Students of Grossmont College, Inc., and more.
Cuyamaca College is also welcoming back students with tables set up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 23 and 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. by Associated Students to get students involved in campus organizations and to inform them of events and programs that are being planned for the semester.
Some Grossmont College highlights for the coming semester:
- An aging student center and chronically overcrowded Student and Administrative Services building underwent a $36.2 million overhaul. The expansions and renovations were funded by a mix of student fees and Proposition R, the $207 million facilities bond measure approved by local voters in 2002 in response to major overcrowding and outdated buildings.
- Grossmont is participating in a national FIPSE (Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) grant for comprehensive student success. A pilot program with 90 students will launch in the spring before eventually expanding to include many more students.
- A 50th -anniversary celebration is planned April 13 and 14, including a sock hop on the 13th and family-oriented programs and activities on April 14.
Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic emphasized the accomplishments of faculty and staff during convocation and offset grim budget uncertainties with the welcomed announcements of a few critical hires for the new semester made possible by several retirements and previous hiring delays.
Some Cuyamaca highlights:
- A $35,000 contribution from the Cuyamaca College Foundation that helped cover the $38,000 cost of refinishing the gymnasium floor.
- The removal of plastic traffic columns and roadway improvements in front of the Communications Arts building improving access for vehicles and pedestrians.
- A spotlight on the world-class mentoring that students are getting from Exercise Science instructors: men’s cross country and women’s track coach Tim Seaman, an Olympic race-walker; golf coach Louise Parks, a nationally-ranked Ladies Professional Golf Association member; women’s tennis coach Pam Farmer, a top-ranked women’s doubles player; men’s track coach Pat Thiss, an eight-time conference coach of the year and California state coach of the year in 2001; basketball coach Rob Wojtowski, who has sent more than 30 players to play ball at the university level; and women’s soccer coach Dan Codina, who twice coached the team to top-15 finishes in the nation.