Harry Hellenbrand, interim president of California State University, Northridge, and other campus leaders met with faculty and students on Thursday, Jan. 26 to explain enrollment caps that have left some students without a full load of classes this semester.
Hellenbrand, who was joined by William Watkins ’74 (Urban Studies), vice president for student affairs and acting administrator of academic affairs, said CSUN had to lower the number of available seats in classes to align its enrollment with targets established by the CSU and to avoid a $7 million penalty from the Chancellor’s Office.
Cal State Northridge is only allowed to exceed full-time student enrollment by three percent. The campus is currently serving about seven percent more students than it has state funding to serve.
“I feel terrible about this,” said Hellenbrand but the president explained that the cap is the result of ongoing state cuts to the CSU budget.
Overall, he encouraged faculty and students to contact their elected officials and the Chancellor’s office to express concerns. For now, Hellenbrand said graduating seniors should work with their department chairs to obtain information about getting into needed courses. He encouraged faculty to keep the names of students interested in adding classes just in case openings become available.
The enrollment issue dominated the campus last week during the first week of the spring semester. This has become an issue due to a combination of factors, including an increase in the number of students eligible to enroll at CSUN and a larger number of students interested in taking a larger number of units.
Maria Elena Fernandez, a part-time faculty member in the Department of Chicana/o Studies, said she helped organize a group of students to protest after having to turn away nearly a dozen students from one of her classes.
“It just didn’t make any sense to me when we have seats in our classes,” Fernandez said. “The students were frustrated and we as faculty are frustrated too.”
Maria Cruz, 21, a senior majoring in criminal justice was one of dozens of students who pleaded with campus leadership to find a solution. The Los Angeles resident is the first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. She has not been able to add any classes and is in jeopardy of losing her financial aid.
“What am I going to do? Drop out of school and get a minimum wage job?” asked Cruz. “I’m going to college to try to make life better. I don’t want to leave school.”