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Admissions offices keep busy

College applications increase as economy tightens

Posted: April 19, 2009 11:05 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Colleges in the Santa Clarita Valley are dealing with an increase in applications as students shift their approach to higher education in a tight economy.

That shift includes older students returning to education as they try to improve job skills, and high-school seniors, nervous about their chances of college acceptance, applying to more schools than seniors have done in previous years.

College of the Canyons has seen a 13 percent increase in students aged 18-24 over the past year, Barry Gribbons, assistant superintendent said.

But the greatest increase is in students 25 and over. The community college saw a 30 percent hike in such students last semester, Gribbons said.

That marks an increase of 1,200 students, he said.

"That's a pretty strong reflection of the economic times and the problems people are facing," Gribbons said.

In the fall, the community college saw an increase of 1,000 students aged 18-24.

Gribbons credits the restrictive admission policies at state schools for the significant increase in 18-24-aged students.

The state budget crunch, along with something called impaction, forced state schools like California State University, Northridge - a popular choice for local high-school seniors pursuing college - and other state schools to close admissions early.

Impaction refers to when a school receives more applications than a school can accommodate, leading officials to advise colleges to cut the number of applications taken in, Suzy Babikan, associate director of admissions at CSUN, said.

"The numbers are down from last year because of the early closing dates," Babikan said.

For fall 2008, CSUN processed 42,000 applications.

The number for fall 2009 took a dive to 36,800 applications, she said.

Figuring out how many students actually attend the school in the fall remains a different story.

"It's hard to tell," Babikan said. "There's so many different factors this year because of the impaction and the economy," she said.

First-time freshmen unable to attend CSUN typically turn to community colleges to earn their first two years of college credit before transferring to a school as an upper-division transfer student, she said.

It's an option that may make sense for many.

"I think there's many students that would be better off starting at community colleges," she said.

That works well for the community college's flexible acceptance process.

"We turn no student away," Gribbons said.

Gribbons anticipates that the growth in enrollment will continue for some time.

"I expect it to continue until the economy improves substantially and CSU and UC change their policies," he said.

Additionally, College of the Canyons has seen a sharp increase in the number of students transferring from College of the Canyons to four-year institutions.

"Looking at the enrollment profiles, there's strong evidence that students are choosing to come to COC first and then transfer to four-year institutions," Gribbons said.

It's a concept that is being encouraged.

"They tend to do better once they get there," Gribbons said. "It's clearly a good thing for students."

While College of the Canyons isn't full, adding more classes is difficult.

"The only challenge is as the state puts restrictions on our budget, it becomes harder to add more classes," he said. "We'll do our best to find classes for students."


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