By Christina Arias
Overwhelmed. Overloaded. Overcrowded.
College students face a number of stresses during their years in school. They worry about tuition costs, buying textbooks, rent, and figuring out how to get to campus. Students experience the immense pressure of going to school, but soon there might not be any more room for them on campus.
Community colleges across the Los Angeles County are growing at rapid rates. Colleges in the San Fernando Valley, like Los Angeles Pierce College and Los Angeles Valley College are starting to see the impact of their growing student populations.
The colleges struggle to provide enough sections for demanding classes that students need and lack sufficient resources for the number of students enrolling each year. Frustrated students from the SFV have begun to look for a chance at finishing their degrees outside of the Los Angeles Community College District. Many students taking classes at Moorpark College outside of the valley. Others often travel north to the Santa Clarita Valley to find College of the Canyons.
When COC’s Valencia campus was first built in 1969 it was only meant to accommodate 5,000 students. By the early 2000s, the student population had doubled in size. Today, COC is home to about 20,000 students, and it is projected to keep growing.
As the quest for higher education becomes more sought-after, students are looking to pursue their education at the most resourceful institutions. COC is known for being a progressive and fairly new school which attracts students from the SCV and beyond.
However, there are concerns that COC may not be fully prepared for their future student populations.
“How does the college plan to keep up with all these students?” asked COC professor Pete Virgadamo. “We already have a high demand of night time classes where professors are being asked to take on more. I’m not sure what the future will be like at COC for these students.”
Jaileen Aguilera, a COC student, says she always finds it difficult to find parking. She even arrives almost an hour before class starts to get there on time.
Other students at the Valencia campus have different opinions when it comes to the topic.
“Based on my experience, I don’t think it’s currently overcrowded. However, I only take classes at night so it may differ during the day,” says Louie Tran, another COC student.
Eric Harnish, COC’s spokesman, says the college has a number of new initiatives to help support the success of their growing student population.
To begin, students can already see the progress of a new parking structure being built on the Valencia campus. The parking structure is aiming to add 1,659 spaces for students. While construction is happening, there may be some congestion of cars. However, the completed structure is hoping to alleviate traffic and parking in school lots.
To help with the academic success of students, the college has created a new project that allows students to take accelerated math and English courses. The “Accelerate Your Dreams to Reality” project aims to get students done with remedial courses faster by combining some classes together. This will help students finish their required course work faster and get them going on their academic plans.
To help students avoid having to buy costly textbooks, COC has incorporated a program called Open Educational Resources. The program has collected teaching materials and made them available to students at no cost.
Programs like these are what set COC apart from other schools. Students are constantly looking for resources that will help ease the stresses of college life. These programs cut tuition prices per semester and overall help students save money.
College of the Canyons is also working on providing more room for incoming students. In the year 2025, COC is expected to have about 22,200 students enrolled.
“Most of the college’s new facilities will be built at the Canyon Country Campus on open land there. And, eventually, the current modular buildings will be replaced with permanent structures,” says Harnish. “A 55,000-square-foot Science Center is under construction that will include 8 labs and help move thousands of students off waitlists and into classes.”
The college opened the Canyon Country campus in 2007 for students on the east side of the SCV to have access to a COC education. The founders of the college may not have anticipated the amount of growth COC has, but Harnish reminds the SCV that the college is always working on improving its resources. Whether that be new buildings for more students or free learning materials.
Although there is an increasing concern with student populations on community college campuses, COC seems to be aware of the issue and is actively working on a solution for its own community.