Monday, January 08, 2007

How AET Has Become The $8.8 Million Parking Lot

According to the SMC Board of Trustees Agenda for January 8, 2007, "by the end of November 2006, tracking results for the Winter 2007 Session indicated a significant lag in enrollment." Of course SMC has used this sad fact to justify spending a total of $73,168 with its contract with the LA Weekly to aggressively market its courses. If one is attentive, there are clues to the lack of enrollment at Santa Monica College.

First, take a peek at the
Winter 2007 Open Classes list. Typically, SMC would provide the interested student with the total seats per course as well as the number of seats filled to date. This information was extremely important in that it allowed the student to determine whether it was worth enrolling in a particular course. For example, in addition to maximum enrollment seat capacity, there is a minimum seat capacity. The minimum, usually 16 seats, is required for a course to go through for that particular semester. When the seats do not reach the minimum, the class is often cancelled. If a student, for financial aid reasons, is required to maintain 12 units per semester, each course counts for that total. If a class is cancelled at the last minute, then the student can potentially be locked out of other courses, which are filled to the maximum, and be forced to be below the 12 units per semester, jeopardizing one's financial aid award. So, if one can see that a course is not going to make the minimum, the student can elect to select another course that is more secure. Now, one is left guessing.

The same is true for the
Spring 2007 Open Classes list. Also, notice how many classes actually show that spaces are still available. In Winter Session, many courses are open even after the second week into the eight-week session, which two years ago would have been already filled. This is not a very good sign, given that students are being offered a reduction of fees from $26 a unit to $20 a unit. Apparently, new and continuing students are not rushing to the educational starting gate over at SMC.

The final clue to the ever-dwindling SMC enrollment is the free parking offered on the AET campus. SMC prominently displays on its
home page the following in capital red letters: "FREE STUDENT SHUTTLE PARKING AT THE ACADEMY CAMPUS." At first, this seems rather generous of SMC, but this has nothing to do with generosity, but the fact that the Academy of Entertainment and Technology satellite campus not only offers very few courses; it can't even fill those courses to capacity. As several people have stated, AET has become a ghost town. Here's a screenshot of the SMC AET online free parking advertisement.

Free Parking at AET Campus for Winter 2007

A decade ago, SMC purchased the AET campus for approximately $8.8 million from the
Gemological Institute of America. AET allegedly opened its doors in September 1998. Although at first described as a prestigious full-time by portfolio admission program, it has decayed over the years to pretty much an open course program with less and less prerequisites to match its dwindling course offerings and vocational certificate offerings, and overall enrollment. So, while the few students that are enrolling this winter session at SMC will be blessed with free parking and a free shuttle to take them to main campus, the taxpayers are stuck with a satellite campus that has become little more than an $8.8 million parking lot.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2007: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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