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On Feb. 20, readers of The Press Democrat learned of the state's and Santa Rosa Junior College's intention to limit students from repeating certain classes.

Because this three-time limit will apply retroactively, up to 1,258 current students will have already reached the limit in at least one class in their history at the college. This group, involving those who were students before this requirement was enacted, may well be unable to complete the required courses in their program.

This is just one in a series of changes proposed to change the way the state's 112 two-year college delivers service it students. Another set of changes are part of the Student Success Task Force currently being considered by the state Legislature.

Certain courses are immune from this restriction, mainly in the area of physical education and computers where there are rapid changes in software technology. However, the limits pertain to the core liberal art and sciences courses at the heart of the transfer program.

On the surface, it appears to be well intended. It pushes students to take their course work seriously. It encourages them to get through their program and course work and move to the next level, be it employment or transfer. It makes room for incoming students in a limited offering. But other aspects reported in the article show that appearance can be deceiving.

Note the number of full-time SRJC students the state is willing to support; 18,141 down from 20,808 two years ago — a 13 percent decline.

The current state funding for a full-time student is now $4,565, down from a high of $4,950 during the Gov. Pete Wilson days. This translates to yet another reduction in the number of classes being offered.

The effect of this is to create problems for students accessing the classes they need or capture their interest, forcing them to enroll in ill-suited classes in order to fill their units.

It is no wonder, then, we see more dropouts and poor performance.

Among the most serious cut sections are the non-credit offerings which include many of the college preparatory classes. The net effect again is to see students not performing or withdrawing from the credit classes.

The window in which the W is assigned to a withdrawing student is very wide — from the end of the third week to the near end of a 16-week course. Many students who withdraw from the early part of a course do so for legitimate reasons such as employment schedule changes, family changes, financial hardship, etc.

Another change has been the decline of full-time contract faculty and a ratio increase in part-time hourly employees. At the same time, the state has cut support for office-hour pay for the part-time faculty. Thus, students have more difficulty in getting the extra help and individual attention they need.

No surprises here, either with respect to dropout and poor performance.

Increases in fees and the loss of the Doyle Scholarship are more factors in this scenario. Counseling and student testing also have been severely reduced.

In short, we have created perfect conditions for student withdrawal and poor performance while at the same time penalizing them for the very effect we have created.

The responsible parties here can be traced to Sacramento, the state budget and forces seeking to change the two-year system.

Local administrators should think carefully about the unintended consequences of this regulation.

Edward Crowell is a part-time philosophy instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College and a resident of Healdsburg.

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