Modesto Junior College students are getting a rude introduction to waiting lists.
For the first time in her five years of taking classes at MJC, Martha Zamora is on such a list. She's No. 5 trying to get into a health services class.
She said she's never seen classes so full and is thankful she's a continuing student; they get higher priority when registering for classes.
As of Aug. 20, 89 percent of MJC's classes were filled, which is far ahead of schedule. Classes start today.
"This is the first time we're not going to be able to meet the educational needs of the community," said Karen Walters Dunlap, MJC's vice president of instruction.
Thousands of students are on waiting lists. Courses that filled the quickest were those needed to transfer to a university and those aimed at improving basic skills — math, English, reading, history, psychology, business and biology, Walters Dunlap said.
"A lot of students enrolled earlier this year because word got out about the budget crisis, and StartSmart (early registration) is getting more popular," Walters Dunlap said.
MJC officials have cut class offerings by 10 percent, deleting 180 courses from the fall schedule because of budget cuts. Spring semester probably will see more courses lopped off.
Competition is high, with students trying to transfer to a university and laid-off workers trying to improve job skills lining up for fewer classes. Some students are scurrying to get classes to reach full-time status; they need 12 units to be eligible for financial aid or health insurance.
"I haven't encountered a student who hasn't had difficulty getting classes," said Levi Ogden, MJC's student body president. He signed up for four classes, but he had seniority because this is his third consecutive year of attending MJC.
To help ease students' frustration and answer questions, officials are setting up information tables on MJC's east and west campuses and handing out tips for finding classes and getting a jump-start on spring registration, which starts Nov. 3.
MJC officials are directing students to Columbia College and its Oakdale Center for some classes.
Officials also suggest looking for waiting lists of fewer than five people. As weeks go on, some people drop classes, making room for those on a waiting list.
After a few years of stagnant or declining enrollment, MJC has more demand than it can handle. The state decreased the number of students it will fund by 5 percent this year compared with last year.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.