Santa Rosa Junior College will begin giving priority to students seeking to earn a degree or transfer to a four-year university, part of a fundamental shift in the mission of the state's community college system.
The new policy, adopted Monday by the governing board of the state's 112-college system, is designed to preserve room for the most serious students as budget cuts force community colleges to trim classes and enrollment.
"They do represent substantial changes. For the most part, we think they're healthy changes," said Ricardo Navarrette, SRJC's vice president of student services.
Under the statewide policy, new students who have developed an education plan and completed their college orientation and assessment will be given priority to register for classes.
Existing students who are in good academic standing and have fewer than 100 units will also be favored during registration.
The changes signal a cultural shift within the community college system, which has traditionally welcomed residents taking classes for personal enrichment and made room for struggling students to repeat courses.
"We are in effect rationing education through the community colleges," Navarrette said. "The spirit of these requirements is to give priority to the students who are starting out, who need the units, who have defined educational goals and objectives and who have a timeline to accomplish it.
The new requirements take effect in fall 2014, although SRJC will begin phasing them in next spring.
It was not clear Tuesday how many SRJC students would be impacted by the changes.
"On the one hand, I think it gives them a map and a sense of direction," said SRJC teacher Anne Marie Insull. "But it is kind of good to just be here, and that is the worrying aspect. Not everyone has a plan, and sometimes college is a place to figure things out."
The changes, first recommended this year by a statewide task force, are intended to make it easier for students to reach their educational goals.