The rush to register for classes at Santa Rosa Junior College has hit a traffic jam.

So many students logged on to sign up for classes Monday, the first day of open registration for the fall, that the school's servers grounded to a near-halt.

"It's like everyone is getting on Highway 80 at the same time to get to Tahoe," said Diane Traversi, the school's director of admissions. "Everyone is inching along, but it's just not going to be that fast with everyone on there at the same time."

The delays come as the incentive to register early is at a peak. In response to budget cuts, SRJC reduced its course offerings by 11 percent. At the same time, student demand is well above the level seen this time last year.

As of Thursday afternoon, 13,670 students had signed up for classes during priority registration, which began June 27, a 9 percent increase from the same period last year.

Priority registration offers a head start to students who have fulfilled criteria, including by reaching certain levels of credits or meeting with counselors.

Registration Monday for all students opened at 6 a.m., though those dependent on college on-campus computers had to wait for school facilities to open two hours later.

Traversi said there were 50 students lined up near her office in Plover Hall when she arrived at 8 a.m.

She hasn't been immune to the delays herself. At 7 a.m., she tried to sign up her son, a high school student, for a P.E. class. It took 45 minutes to complete the process.

"Every screen is really slow," said Traversi, who expects around 5,000 students to enroll throughout the course of the day.

She advised students to be patient. Despite the lag time, the system has been letting people through without crashing, just much more slowly than expected.

She said demand should drop to more manageable levels by the end of the day. She does not expect problems in subsequent days as the rush passes.

Still speed is of the essence. With class supply down and demand up, more than 20 percent of the school's 2,460 for-credit fall courses already were full last week, including all calculus sections and many prerequisites for health programs. Science and math are subject areas that typically fill the fastest.

Enrollment in online classes was up by more than 26 percent, with 40 percent of sections filled. Increasingly, students are seeking such classes as a first resort, eager to take advantage of the flexibility they offer.

You can reach Staff Writer Sam Scott at 521-5431 or at sam.scott@pressdemocrat.com