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Why Are There Fewer Students in Santa Monica College Than Before?

Santa Monica College (SMC) is a public, two-year community college located in the Santa Monica, California. It possesses six campuses which stretched from Marina del Rey to Malibu. The school leads 112 community colleges in California in the number of transferring students to four-year colleges. SMC has around 30,000 students enrolled, which is almost 5,000 less than in 2008-2012 (“Santa Monica College Disperses Registration”). Different factors, including recent incidents related to pepper-spray, bomb and shooting threats, suicide; and certain living and studying conditions, might have contributed to such a drastic decline in the number of enrolled students.

Despite the fact that the most student reviews on the reputation of Santa Monica College are positive which include the positive reflections on all of the interesting subjects and highly-professional teachers, recent events at the college caused many potential students hesitate whether it is a good idea to go to SMC. Some current students are also concerned with the present level of safety on campus, convenience of studies in the classrooms, and the financial accessibility of studies in general (“Santa Monica College (SMC) - Reviews”).

Many students started complaining when Santa Monica College decided to try a novel two-tier system in 2012. This system assumed some more popular courses to be offered for the higher prices. In other words, according to it, students which were eager to get into a particular class could do so only if they paid more. For many generations, community colleges like SMC  have been seen as the social equalizers which provided an inexpensive education for students with low income, immigrants and other people without money, skills or high grades so that they could attend a four-year higher institution. Many students saw the new policy as the one that would unfairly exclude the low-income students. Since the recession time of 2008, the community college system in California has lost nearly $809 million in the state aid (Medina). SMC reduced class offerings as a result. It cut 1,100 courses out of 7,430 from the fall term. Today, as a result of these cuts, students are unable to get classes they need in order to graduate (“Santa Monica College Tries 2-Tier Pricing System”).

The complaints of students regarding the new two-tier system of class pricing smoothly grew into protests. That was the time when the issue safety of the college was greatly questioned. In April 2013, several students have been pepper sprayed by the officers during the protests. However, unfortunately, that was not the only incident which put the college safety under the doubt. Shortly, after the event report was issued, the whole campus was evacuated because of the bomb threat. The perpetrator of this incident was not discovered (Bartholomew et al). A further event which became a great shock for the whole college, was the suicide committed by the SMC student. Tian Lu jumped from the rooftop between the swimming pool and the business building. He experienced severe head trauma and other multiple traumatic injuries, which contributed to the fatal outcome. That tragic event happened for the first time in the SMC’s 84-year history, and became a deep mark on the reputation of the college (Barajas). Another event which threatened safety of potential and current students occurred shortly after the previous incident. One of the students scared the rest with a shoot up on campus. However, the threat did not grow into the real shooting. The student who threatened was detained by the police. Finally, the event which has greatly shaken the image of the college safety, resulted in the death of five people. Police identified John Zawahri, the former SMC student who went on a shooting spree. He was gunned down by the police during the shootout inside the college campus library. His victims were his father, brother and three more random people on his way to the college. On campus Zawahri blasted a car with a SMC longtime groundkeeper who died as a result of the blast. The assassin also shot the daughter of the groundkeeper. She died few days later. He also shot an old woman near the school library on his way to it. Albert Vasquez, a Chief of the Santa Monica College Police Department said that more than 100 students, who eye-witnessed the last event, had seen the school counselors. He also claimed that in the past weeks, the campus of students and faculty had been greatly traumatized by the bomb threat, suicide, and the shootings threats. As a result, many students called for the greater security and stricter protocols for emergency response (Bartholomew et al). The SMC students’ reviews indicated that the tragedies that happened on the college’s campus, linger their thoughts and voices of the staff and faculty, despite the fact that now, SMC ensures everybody in the complete security and safety (“Santa Monica College (SMC) - Reviews”). Several students though reported in their reviews that in the past there were incidents of the robberies of bikes and purses on campus (“Student Reviews”). 

According to the comments of the SMC students and other individuals who were previously interested in applying for studies at the college, many of them are concerned with the increasing number of people in the classrooms. The normal Economics class size, promised by the school, contains around 20-40 seats. However, some ECO lectures are attended by nearly 100 students (“Santa Monica College (SMC) - Reviews”). An increasing number of people in the classes makes both the learning and the teaching processes harder. Many students prefer less number of seats in the rooms so that they are able to perceive information presented more effectively.

Many student reviews also indicated that the parking on the SMC campus is challenging. Finding a parking spot is reported to being extremely difficult. Most students complain that they must pay for a pricey parking pass, and as they come to campus there is no available place to park the vehicle. This inconvenience creates even bigger one: students have to come hours earlier to occupy the spots for their cars in advance (“Santa Monica College (SMC) - Reviews”).

Some people complain that the academic level of some professors is not as high as it should be. There are no direct complaints about teachers, and most SMC students are satisfied with the professional skills of the college faculty. However, some individuals claim in the reviews that they would like some lecturers to be more flexible and clearer in terms of their teaching practices (“Student Reviews”).

Finally, many people mention the prices of the offered courses as one of the obstacles for applying to the SMC. Even though, the costs in this community college are much lower than in a regular American university, a very poor person will not be able to afford the studies there. However, as mentioned above in this essay, the kinds of colleges like SMC were created primarily for poor students which cannot go with more expensive option for higher education (“Student Reviews”).

Santa Monica College faced a lot of challenges for the last several years, and even more challenging couple of months of the previous year. The difficulties of 2013 and some budget changes after the recession of 2008 resulted in the lower number of individuals interested in the studies at the college, in comparison to the past years. SMC improved its security after the multiple life-threatening and traumatic incidents, and hopefully, the situation on campus positively stabilizes so that the college could display an increasing number of enrolled students with time.

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