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State of Yuba College: Institution in 'transition'
Linda campus — 5,739
Beale Air Force Base — 372
Clear Lake campus — 1,059
Sutter County campus — 1,639
Woodland Community College — 2,624
Colusa County Outreach Facility — 224
Yuba College's finances are holding steady, but bad decisions from previous administrations have made it difficult to bounce back, an official said.
One bad decision was a $4.6 million bond that requires a $58 million payback in public funds, said John Steverson, president of Yuba College's academic senate.
Others came in the form of prioritizing campus projects, he said, such as making improvements to the athletic department before improving the teaching facilities.
"We all agree that there were some things that should have been done first," said Steverson, who teaches math.
The Yuba Community College District operates six campuses, sprawled across the region, and is the only college district serving the bi-county area. Although it has been growing over the years, the district has also seen its share of challenges.
Steverson said the college is "in transition."
For the second year in a row, the budget hasn't been shrinking, he said. However, it hasn't been growing either.
"The budget crisis has hit the community college district pretty hard," Steverson said.
On top of budget cuts, Yuba College has had to deal with a large number of retirements. The Linda campus has lost more than 30 teachers because of retirements in the past few years who have not been replaced, he said.
Fewer faculty means fewer classes offered to students, Steverson said. Because of this, enrollment has been over capacity, and students have a hard time getting the classes they need.
However, the district has made several key changes to its curriculum to help students get through faster, he said. Decreasing the number of times a student can retake a class, creating programs to help increase low transfer rates and providing students with clearer career paths are just a few of the ways to help push students along.
Programs, such as business and welding, are also looking at new ways to get transfer students moving or obtain their training certificates in a timelier fashion.
With some of the changes now in place, Steverson said the college's current administration is headed in the right direction.
"We are serving the students the best we can," he said.
CONTACT Griffin Rogers at email@example.com or 749-4783. Find him on Facebook at /ADgriffinrogers or on Twitter at @ADgriffinrogers.
Money is tight
Finances have been tight in the Yuba College district for several years, and this year is no different, chief business officer Kuldeep Kaur said.
The district receives $44.5 million in revenue annually, but spends about $43.9 million, she said.
This school year, the district had to dip into some of the $7.5 million left over from the previous year because of $2.5 million in unexpected expenses. However, Kaur said the institution doesn't plan on using any reserve funds next year, thanks to rechanneled money from Proposition 30.
"We are actually in a very good situation due to the Prop. 30 passage," she said.
A spending freeze in April resulted in a higher than expected balance at the end of the 2011-12 school year, which also gave the college some breathing room, she said.
The governing board has had to make difficult decisions since 2008, Kaur said. After receiving about $4.3 million in cuts, the district has had to balance the budget by laying off classified personnel and eliminating administration positions.
Most importantly, however, the district has tried to find ways of lessening the effects of tight finances on its students, she said.
— Griffin Rogers
Transfer-rate picture complicated
Erik Cooper, director of planning, research and student services, said Yuba College's transfer rates can be summed up in one word: Complicated.
According to state standards, about 40 percent of students transfer out of the college, Cooper said. But in reality, the numbers are lower because the state ignores large groups of students — some of whom may not be expecting to transfer in the first place.
The total number of transfers based on every student enrolled at the college is more like 18 percent, he said.
Yuba's transfer rate is low compared to other colleges surrounding Yuba-Sutter, but average for institutions of similar size, Cooper said.
"Maybe average isn't a good thing," he said, "but that's where we are."
The transfer rate isn't where the college would like it and can't be blamed on any specific areas, he said.
In the past, transfers may have been effected by a large number of incoming high school students who fail to place in college-level math and English courses and are unable to reach the courses needed to transfer to a state university, Cooper said.
In an effort to remedy that problem, the college has revamped its English curriculum by cutting courses and increasing the workload. The idea is to decrease the distance between basic and college-level courses so it is faster for students to transfer.
"Staff has said, "Are we watering down the curriculum?" Cooper said. "But that doesn't seem to be the case."
Since the change in English curriculum, students are now getting through to the higher level English classes, he said, and are therefore more likely to transfer.
— Griffin Rogers
Giving students an edge in job market
Changes are coming to Yuba Colleges business curriculum that will streamline transfers to state universities, with hopes of giving students an edge in the job market after college, business instructor Barbara Anderson said.
The business division has been trying to create a more focused curriculum by cutting about 20 achievement certificates to five. Business students can now receive credentials in office administration, business computer applications, retail management, accounting and general business.
Instructors, including Anderson, are also working toward mandating an associate's degrees in Science in Business Administration for Transfer, a course which better prepares students who wish to receive a degree in business administration, she said.
Anderson said the curriculum has become more data-driven and emphasizes student outcomes.
"It's becoming much more specialized," she said. "I'm really excited about it. But in education, the process is slow."
The option for the associate transfer should be available in 12 to 18 months.
The hope, Anderson said, is to provide students with the knowledge that local, state and regional employers are looking for.
— Griffin Rogers
Welding becomes major attraction
Welding has become one of Yuba College's major attractions over the past few years, thanks to new equipment and a focus on job placement.
Welding instructor Dan Turner started working at the college in 2006 and immediately begin revamping the program to benefit students, as well as the community, he said.
New equipment, such as tubing rollers and pipe cutting machines, was brought in to teach students welding techniques that are commonly used in Yuba-Sutter, Turner said.
Additionally, the college recently brought in equipment that simulates real-life welding scenarios by using a virtual-reality helmet. To use the simulator, students put on a welding helmet that is equipped with a display screen inside. The helmet produces realistic sound and can even grade the students' work.
Since Turner's arrival, enrollment in the welding program has grown as much as 500 percent, he said.
"If there's hope of employment at the end of the program, they're more likely to enroll because they see the benefits," Turner said.
— Griffin Rogers