When Antelope Valley College student Christian Reeves's summer registration date rolled around last month, all the classes she needed were already full. Now, the nursing student must wait for other students to drop out to get a spot in the summer classes and avoid the heavy load of math, anatomy, and chemistry - classes not recommended taken together - in the fall. She hopes to finish the nursing program within three years, but those plans may be hindered by the lack of summer courses.
"It's frustrating, not getting the classes I need," Reeves said. "I'm really stressed about it."
As California continues to cut funding to universities and community colleges, many students like Reeves worry. With less funds, schools offer fewer classes and students have no choice but to put graduation on hold and garner more debt.
Because of the tight budget, schools have cut down on summer courses. Antelope Valley College, a community college in Lancaster, Calif., will offer only 85 classes this summer, down from the 177 courses it offered in 2010. The school will move most of its general education courses to a satellite campus in Palmdale and will offer only a limited number of specialized courses at its much larger Lancaster campus to cut down on building upkeep costs.
Other community colleges have cut summer classes altogether. Solano Community College in Fairfield Calif. is one of the eight schools that have cut their entire summer schedule this year. Last year, the California community college system offered 40 percent fewer classes than during its peak in 2008 and the number is expected to decrease even more this year. According to an informal survey completed by the Chancellor's office of community colleges, course offerings and enrollment have plummeted to their lowest point in 15 years.
"[Students] are very upset, and I don't blame them," said Antelope Valley College President Jackie Fisher. "We are not providing them the education they deserve."
Faced with budget cuts for the past five years, Fisher will trim 160 more class sections from fall, spring, and summer schedules next year.
"It's going to remain the same until the budget turns around," he said.
Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget scrambles to fix the state's $16 billion budget deficit with proposed taxes and cuts to spending - including more cuts to the state's higher education system. With $400 million already stripped from community colleges this year, the forecast is grim. If the taxes do not pass this November, another $287 billion will be cut from schools.
But Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, said that taxes will not solve the problem of reckless spending. Even if the taxes raised enough money, "You can't expect schools in California to make sufficient cuts... to operate in the black."
He said the government needs to try a different model that would give schools autonomy, create competition between schools, and require students to be more financially responsible for their own education.
"The end result is you want those consuming the education to pay for it themselves, as much as they can."
But for now Reeves still has to deal with the lack of classes. Many of her prerequisite science classes are not offered in the summer and fill up quickly in the fall and spring semesters. Reeves is looking for outside options.
"I'm considering driving to go to LA Southwest to get anatomy and physics [classes]," she said. She would be driving an hour and half - without traffic - at least twice a week, while still taking classes at Antelope Valley College.
Even after Reeves finishes her associate degree at Antelope Valley, she will still need to get her bachelor's degree and pass boards before she can become a registered nurse. Reeve's goal is to eventually open a non-profit clinic for women. But without the classes she needs, her plans may take much longer than expected.
"My biggest concern is time," Reeves said.