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By Tim Hunt

"Swirling" to earn college credit

Uploaded: May 21, 2015

When Las Positas President Barry Russell spoke to the Pleasanton Men's Club this month, I learned a new term "swirl."

It describes students, struggling to earn credits, who take classes simultaneously from various community colleges. Class offerings were reduced when funding was cut during the recession and that left students unable to get the classes they needed to earn an associate's degree or transfer to a university.

With the advent of online courses, students can take classes from colleges across the state of California—although community colleges have designated service areas, students can pick and choose.

For instance, students living in Pleasanton can easily attend classes at Ohlone College in Fremont, located at the bottom of the Mission Grade off I-680 or at the Dougherty Valley campus of Diablo Valley College on Bollinger Road in San Ramon or at Las Positas in Livermore. All are short commutes depending upon the time of day.

The next step for Las Positas is completing a new two-story classroom building that will add 12 more rooms to the campus. It's necessary according to Russell because classrooms at Las Positas are full day and night.

The student ethnic mix at Las Positas has shifted significantly with the number of Hispanic students growing to 28 percent from 12 percent, while the number of whites fell from to 42 percent from 58 percent.

One excellent addition to Las Positas' offerings will be two classes offered at each local high school. The classes will be free to high school students and give them a leg up when they move onto college. If a motivated student picks up credits for four classes during their junior and senior years, that give them the opportunity to save a semester's worth of tuition. That could be $20,000 to $30,000 in savings.

Incidentally, the community colleges and k-12 educational systems are the big winner with in the May revision of the governor's budget. Revenues are $6.7 billion more than anticipated in January and, under the terms of Proposition 13, the bulk of that money will go to education. Schools will get an average of $3,000 more per students.

Consider the rollercoaster of education funding. It was $56.6 billion in the 2007-08 budget year and then fell to $47.3 billion in 2011-12 and will be $68.4 billion if the Legislature accepts the governor's spending recommendation.