For the first time in three years, the Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma campus will be adding classes instead of taking them away.
The campus will offer 30 new classes this fall, a move funded by the statewide tax increase Proposition 30, which voters passed in November. Over the entire academic year, between 70-75 new offerings will be added in Petaluma. About 500 classes will be added across all of SRJC's campuses.
Before Prop. 30 passed, SRJC was forced to slash classes in response to budget cuts brought on by the recession. Between 2009 and 2012, the college had to eliminate about a third of all its offerings.
With the dramatic drop in the number of sessions offered, enrollment dropped too. Now, new sections will help students at the Petaluma Campus prepare to transfer to four-year colleges. They will also include more offerings of in-demand classes that many students need to graduate, officials said.
That includes additional sections of basic English, biology and foreign language classes, which always fill up quickly.
“We've tried to add classes that will help students as they try to transfer,” said Jane Saldaña-Talley, vice president of campus affairs for Petaluma. There will also be more career and technical courses, ranging from bookkeeping and accounting to digital game development.
Saldaña-Talley said the campus selected its new classes after talking with counselors to see what courses students were asking for and having trouble accessing.
Still, officials recognize the college has a long way to go before its schedule is restored to what it was before the recession.
“This is getting us back to where we need to be, but not back to where we were,” Saldaña-Talley said. “I believe we have a smarter schedule now (than before the recession), but we still can't offer enough math and English classes. We're still working our way back up.”
But many SRJC students are already noticing the added courses.
Robert O'Brien, a 24-year-old Santa Rosa resident who takes many classes in Petaluma because of what he describes as its calmer environment, will be taking a new physical education class in Petaluma. He's pursuing an X-Ray technician certificate and said he's glad to have the extra course offerings.
“I'm just happy for more opportunities for students to take more classes,” he said.
Along with the new classes, the campus will be adding one new faculty position this fall — an English teacher. “It's great; it allows us to add courses in that critical area,” Saldaña-Talley said.
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