Winter session makes the grade
Santa Monica College successfully completed another winter session, despite facing an operating deficit of $8.5 million, insufficient revenues and shrinking savings, according to SMC Board of Trustee Louis Jaffe.
The winter session's cost of $1.8 million added to the college's deficit spending for the current fiscal year, which led to further depletion of the school's fund balance.
“[Having the winter session] was a bold risk to take because it has economic consequences," said Jaffe. "But the state's projection for future permanently increased revenues was the motivation to take the risk."
The initial decision to cancel winter session was turned around due to the initiative of student government and donating entities, which resulted in the announcement last November, by SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Chui L. Tsang, that the winter session would be brought back.
"The faculty association and the AS did anything possible to have a winter session after we heard that there wouldn't be one despite Prop. 30," said Parker Jean, Associated Students president.
"We came up with solutions toward a winter session that were accessible to everyone and affordable without damaging the AS benefits," Jean said. "It was a community effort."
Approximately 6,400 residential and 1,100 international students enrolled in the winter session. There were about 230 state-funded classes and 10,000 available seats, said Georgia Lorenz, dean of academic affairs. The winter courses focused on general education for transfer, basic skills and programs for certificates and degrees.
In addition to the funding through the college's savings, the winter session was also supported by donations from the college foundation and the AS.
"The donation of the Associated Students is by far and away the lion's share of the donations," said Jaffe.
The AS contributed $200,000, which financed between 15 to 20 percent of the winter courses.
"[Our] donation was given to inspire to have a winter session," said Yacob Zuriaw, AS director of financial support. "It was a spur from the students. The passage of the winter session was a triumph for shared governance. It was more than a success; students got classes."
Other residents, as well as international students, were able to take advantage of the interim session.
"The winter session helped me to successfully accomplish a general education class in a short period of time," said international student Frances Werner, who took political science during the six-week term.
"Even though we're in a deficit, it was still worth having all the classes because it helped the students advance in their education," said SMC student Brandon Perez, who took a math class this winter.
However, not all students were able to take advantage of the class offerings. The quick decision to restore the winter session following the Prop. 30 election victory came too late for sophomore Erica Hazzard.
"If I had known that we would have a winter session, I would have taken classes instead of making plans," said Hazzard.
Others, such as SMC student Gabby Cano, lost out due to the enrollment schedule.
"All the classes I wanted to take were full," Cano said. "[Having the winter session] was good, but there should have been more seats."
"Not everyone got what they needed," said Jaffe. "We closed all our other campuses; we only had [the main] campus open. It was a small winter session. There was a prioritization made, which, of course, left some people out. But opposed to no classes and services, it was great that we were able to do that."