Students become freeway flyers

“Freeway flyers” used to describe adjuncts who commute from campus to campus to teach classes. Now California students are “swirling” from college to college to get the classes they need, reports Kathy Baron on Thoughts on Public Education.

Michael Cash rides his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R from San Diego City College to Miramar Community College, 17 miles away, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays he adds Mesa Community College. He has classes from 8 in the morning to 10 at night.

After five years active duty in the Army, and another five as a Defense Department contractor in Iraq, Cash enrolled in San Diego City College at the beginning of 2010. He plans to earn a bachelor’s degree without borrowing.

“Being a new student, I was put at the bottom of the registration line.  I was wait listed for every class I wanted, and almost didn’t get any classes,” said Cash.  “I just crashed classes to try to get anything I could.”

That means he just showed up on the first day of class, and every other day for the next two weeks, hoping that someone who was actually registered for the class wouldn’t show up so he could get their spot. Not every wait-listed student has the discipline to keep coming back day after day with no guarantee, but Cash’s persistence paid off.

The following semester when two of the classes he needed overlapped, Cash hit the road.

Nearly 10 percent of the state’s community college students “swirl” between multiple campuses.

. . .  Shaneeka Thomas estimates she spends about $85 a week on gas driving to two campuses and her job.

. . . “My teacher is pretty cool and my classmates are great,” said Thomas.  “But at the same time, I’m a part-time employed student, so the gas and the time that it takes to come here twice a week, it drains my budget significantly.”

Some professors let extra students into class, so they won’t have to go on a wait list or swirl. Cash has taken one class with 50 students.  “The professor only let each student speak once per class.”

California community colleges’ Student Success Task Force has been promoting its plan to give priority to new and motivated students who choose an academic plan and make progress toward completion.

“Policies that enable students to wander around the curriculum, withdraw and repeat classes multiple times, avoid services that could steer them along a productive pathway, and accumulate an unlimited number of units are a disservice to enrolled students and to those who can’t get into the system for lack of available classes,” according to the task force.

Students like Cash would be able to register in classes while long-time students who aren’t progressing toward a credential would go on the wait list.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON November 15, 2011

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[...] community colleges have cut classes to balance budgets, turning students into “freeway flyers“ who must “swirl” from one campus to another to find the courses they need.  In [...]

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