As community colleges and public universities cope with the double whammy of state budget cuts and increased student demand, private institutions are stepping in to help fill the void, officials said.
University of Phoenix in Suisun City is one such institution which has seen as much as a 10 percent increase in community college students who are hoping to find classroom spots and required course work to complete their degrees.
"We’re seeing about a 10 percent increase in people coming back because they couldn’t get classes they needed in community colleges," said Bob Eoff, University of Phoenix vice president for Northern California.
"A lot of times (students) are looking to transfer, but some are just not having the luck of getting into state schools," Eoff said.
University of Phoenix officials are working on a strategic plan with nearby Solano Community College to assure its students have good access to the school, said Jo Hoffmeier, University of Phoenix vice president of community relations and product safety.
University of Phoenix has an extensive network of campuses nationwide. Students at the Suisun campus take a myriad of business programs, counseling, human resources and other programs, Hoffmeier said. They can obtain bachelor of arts, master of arts, and doctorate degrees.
The local University of Phoenix campus is also working to improve its alliances with California State University campuses and University of California at Berkeley to assure access to as many students as possible, Hoffmeier said.
As the recession continues, more laid-off workers are flocking to community colleges for retraining and to learn new job skills, officials said.
This past semester, Solano Community College saw a 3.5 percent enrollment increase, but is also faced with at least a $1.5 million budget shortfall, spokesman Ross Beck said.
Napa Valley College saw a 13.8 percent increase in students but had to cut 5 percent of its credit classes and 25 percent of its non-credit courses because of state funding reductions, a school official said.
More students are checking out a range of private institutions, said Jerry Slavonia, chief executive officer for Campus Explorer, a higher education watchdog group and online service provider.
Besides University of Phoenix, other private schools, such as Kaplan University, art institutes and similar institutions are also seeing huge jumps in enrollment, Slavonia said.
"In the past, people have really counted on the community college system to provide an affordable way to go to college. Right now most community colleges are over-crowded and turning students away," Slavonia said.
While private colleges can cost twice as much as public ones, Slavonia said students can find ways to help pay for their education. He encouraged them to check out grants and scholarships only available at private schools.
"If you get accepted, sit down with admissions reps and talk about ways to reduce tuition. If they need you at that school, they are going to help you," he advised students.