SACRAMENTO, CA - In an historic policy shift for California's community college system, students who are actually working towards a degree or a vocational certificate and those transferring to a 4-year university will be given top priority for classes.
The change means if you're lingering because you have nothing else to do or "finding yourself", you go to the back of the line, especially if you already have 100 credits.
But if you have a goal, you move toward the front.
The Board of Governors said rationed access is the only way to survive in these tough budget times; a far cry from the state's Master Plan for education, which aimed to provide classes to anyone who wants to take them.
"It challenges the notion that anybody can get in at any time; it's a whole open system," Association of California Community College Administrators Susan Bray said. "We start to put limits on things, and that's historically different than how we did it before."
Community colleges have lost more than $800 million in state funding since 2008. With fewer instructors and classes, many students can't finish in two years; it's more like six. Nearly half a million students began the fall semester on waiting lists.
Nursing student Melaine Carnero and groups helping minority students are excited about the new policy.
"You go to class. You move on. You move out," Carnero explained. "And that opens up a slot for all the other freshmen coming in."
"We definitely need to improve our graduation and transfer rates," Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund's Jeannette Zanipatin said.
But if you're a retiree like 80-year-old Arthur Owyoung, who's been enrolled in swimming courses for a decade, the policy could shut you out.
"It seems unfair to the seniors because the seniors are the ones paying taxes and supporting the system," Owyoung said.
The new policy doesn't go into effect until 2014, but campuses will be allowed to implement it sooner
Some critics worry about students who need classes like life skills, which are important, but not a path towards a degree.
"Community colleges are for the community, and hence the name," California Federation of Teachers Jeff Freitas said. "There, needs to be a broad basis of education for community colleges, not just for the four-year colleges."
Active duty military, veterans, former foster youth, low-income and the disabled will continue to have first priority for classes.
By Nannette Miranda, ABC7