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Class offerings are expanding at Santa Rosa Junior College, a marked contrast to the past three years when 2,865 classes fell victim to state budget cuts.

Just over 500 classes will be restored in the coming academic year, a process that started this summer, said Mary Kay Rudolph, SRJC's vice president of academic affairs.

Students said they already are seeing a difference.

"My plan to move into the next chapter of my life has been working out really well and it's all because I was able to get into the classes I need," said Mayra Lozano, 27, of Sonoma, a pre-nursing student.

The boost in classes is driven by funds from Proposition 30, the 2012 ballot measure that is delivering more than $200 million a year into the state's community college system.

It will cost the college about $2.5 million to bring back the classes, said Doug Roberts, SRJC's vice president of business services.

Lozano said she has been able to get into several science classes she needed to fulfill her nursing prerequisites. This year, she said, "It didn't become a mountain I had to climb trying to get into classes."

Still, the return of the classes will fill just 20 percent of the hole that was dug as the college shed sections in core subjects such as mathematics and English and, to an even greater degree, community enrichment courses from dance to painting.

Classes designed for older adults — 34 are planned for the fall — are a pale shadow of what they were three years ago, when there were 315. Also, non-credit, community classes, while restored to some measure, are no longer free.

"It's probably not going to ever be back where it was," said Rudolph.

At SRJC's Petaluma campus, Vice President Jane Salda?-Talley said the choice of what classes to restore was made carefully, with an eye toward getting students into position to graduate or transfer to four-year colleges.

"It doesn't get us back up to where we were a number of years ago but it's a smarter schedule," she said. "It's not as large a schedule, but it's focused on student completion."

The impact of the cutbacks that started in 2009 are still clear. There were nearly 7,000 students at the Petaluma campus in 2009; there are 5,600 now, Salda?-Talley said.

And the 450 classes offered at the campus in 2009 have been whittled to 350, even with the roughly 30 sections that have now been restored.

In the past three years, a statewide analysis found, 400,000 students stopped attending the community college system because of the cuts, said Rudolph. The number of students attending the Santa Rosa campus dropped to 18,000 from over 20,000.

The number of faculty members dropped from 1,288 in combined full- and part-time instructors to 933.

"It was painful," Rudolph said.

The equivalent of about 70 instructors are being brought back to teach the restored classes, officials said Thursday.

The cutbacks also often meant distinctly uncomfortable conditions for students who, when they got into classes they needed, found them packed.

"My biology class last semester was crazy crowded," said Kelly Birkland, 19, of Santa Rosa, who is studying to be an athletic trainer. "There were people sitting on the floor there were so many people," she said.

Now students are looking forward to a somewhat less pressed atmosphere.

"You'll have a lot more options, so you can fit more classes into your schedule," said Karina Saavedra, 18, of Guerneville, a general-ed student who plans to transfer to UC Santa Barbara.

(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)