Glendale Community College slashes popular classes

Glendale Community College will reduce its lifelong learning and parent education programs — which between them boast a century's worth of course offerings — by about 50% next year, officials confirmed this week.

The cuts were long anticipated, generating significant discussion at board of trustees meetings and a community forum, during which students implored administrators to preserve the free classes. They mirror those at other districts up and down the state where similar education programs have been reduced or eliminated entirely.

“We kind of knew this was coming,” said Jan Young, chairwoman of the college's continuing education division, which falls within its non-credit programming. “Obviously, it is pretty sobering times, economically speaking, for higher education. We can't be free and we can't be low-price on everything and still be in business.”

Nevertheless, the news has proven a bitter pill to swallow for affected instructors and their students, many of whom say the classes are an invaluable educational opportunity serving to build community and enrich lives.

“Devastated is exactly what it is,” said Rita Streimer, who has taught quilting through Glendale Community College for more than a decade. She learned last week that the class has been eliminated.

“We are hurt,” she said. “There are so many benefits to it.”

Glendale Community College has administered its lifelong learning program for 40 years and its parent education program for 60 years, Young said. At any given time, there are more than a dozen classes running in each program, serving more than 400 students a semester. All of the classes are free.

The planned reductions will save the college about $67,000, said Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services.

The college, which has seen its annual budget shrink dramatically over the last three years, faces an additional $4.1-million state funding cut if the November tax initiative fails.

In addition to quilting, the lifelong learning classes slated for elimination include sketching, painting and water colors, Young said. Those to be preserved include computer classes, memoir writing, art history and current affairs, among others.

Where appropriate, the eliminated classes will be referred to the college's fee-based community education program, thus enabling students to continue taking them — for a price, Young said.

That is little consolation to students, some of whom said they have made use of the free classes for years. Helene Powers said she has taken classes at Glendale Community College since the 1950s and that Streimer's, taught most recently at the Sparr Heights Community Center, is her favorite.

“We have had members of the class who come in wheelchairs,” Powers said. “We have young women with babies and elderly women who have told me that quilting is their only social outlet.”

Budget realities have forced community college administrators to draft a list of priorities, including transferring students to four-year institutions, delivering basic skills instruction and facilitating career and technical education, Young said. That leaves non-credit programs, such as lifelong learning and parent education, at the bottom of the list.

“I was pleased that we got 50%, given what we have seen around the state,” said Young, adding that she was worried the classes might be scratched entirely.

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