Fall Semester Begins at MSJC

Mt. San Jacinto College student Drake Black is keeping up on the state budget crisis because he knows that what happens at the state level will affect his educational future.
 
On the first day of the Fall 2012 semester, Black said the state’s funding cuts to education make him nervous that class offerings will be further reduced throughout the state. The Hemet resident is in his second semester at MSJC and plans to transfer to a four-year university to receive a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
 
“I think the budget cuts could have a harsh impact on opportunity,” Black, 19, said. “If more classes get cut, we won’t be able to get prepared to transfer.”
 
MSJC opened for the Fall semester on Monday, Aug. 20, with 14,500 students filling 93 percent of the seats. The district is offering 1,331 class sections this semester. Last year, the Fall 2011 semester saw 16,151 students and 1,384 classes. The decrease in enrollment and class offerings is a result of the state’s ongoing economic crisis.
 
MSJC’s 1,700-square-mile district runs from Temecula to the San Gorgonio Pass. It has campuses in San Jacinto, Menifee, the San Gorgonio Pass and an education complex in Temecula. The district also offers online classes and classes at off-campus locations.
 
Sheriss Penn of Hemet said she noticed it was harder to get classes this year and warned first-time students not to skip the first class.
 
“You better come or you’re out,” Penn said.
 
Since 2008-09, the state has cut funding to the California Community Colleges system by $809 million and total enrollment has gone down by 300,000 students, according to the community colleges Chancellor’s Office. The funding cuts have come at the same time high unemployment turned job seekers to community colleges to seek retraining, creating a peak demand for higher education
 
In 2008-09, the MSJC Board adopted an unrestricted general fund budget of $57 million and a total budget of $116 million. For 2012-13, MSJC expects cuts could amount to $7million if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative fails. The MSJC Board adopted an unrestricted general fund budget of $51.9 million and a total budget of $103.9 million. The budget bridges the expected $7 million gap. The unrestricted general fund pays for operations, materials, supplies, salaries, benefits and miscellaneous costs.
 
In Fall 2009, MSJC served 18,845 students and was able to offer 1,690 classes.
 
Since the state budget crisis began, the district has made budget cuts to areas that have the least disruption to students. Overtime was reduced, a hiring frost has been in effect and a salary freeze was implemented. For 2012-13, administrators, management and classified staff agreed to a 4.6 percent reduction in the form of 12 furlough days in 2012-13. The district has also dipped into its reserves.
 
However, the continuing State budget cuts have resulted in a reduction of funding for full-time equivalent students. In 2009-10, MSJC received funding for 10,199 students and used reserves to serve a total of 13,023. In the coming year, the District expects to receive funding for 8, 982 students and will use part of its reserves to serve an additional 450 students.
 
While the state’s budget assumes Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative will pass, MSJC has planned its budget for the deepest cuts. If the initiative does pass, it will provide some relief, but will not restore previous funding cuts.
 
In addition, during 2012-13, the State will defer funding to community colleges to the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year (June 30, 2013). This means the district will have to operate with 41% less money than it is supposed to receive for 2012-13. MSJC will have to rely on reserves and borrow money with interest until it receives the 41% deferred funding. The state will implement the deferral regardless of the outcome of the tax initiative.
 
MSJC is focusing on preserving those courses students need to transfer or obtain an associate’s degree or career certificate. The college recommends that students make an appointment early on with a counselor to map out the classes they need to reach their goals. Students should enroll early, always attend the first day of class and avoid withdrawing from a class.
 
Tasha Tomecko, 23, of Menifee said she is attending MSJC to become a registered nurse and plans to transfer to a four-year university. Like Tomecko, students should meet with a counselor before they enroll at MSJC.
 
“If I didn’t have a counselor then I’d be lost,” Tomecko said.
 
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Hemet resident Drake Black said he worries that state budget cuts could limit his opportunities for higher education.
 
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Menifee residents Tasha Tomecko and Brittnee Khalid in front of MSJC's enrollment building on the Menifee Valley Campus
 
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Temecula resident Edward Menchaca purchases textbooks at MSJC's Menifee Valley Campus on the first day of school.