Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone may limit grade-schoolers' access to courses

By Matthew Artz, The Argus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—For years Ohlone College hasn't just been a bargain for recent high school graduates, it's been an even better one for elementary and middle school students, who every year enroll in adult classes, such as its Mandarin course, free of charge.

But those days might soon end. With enrollment on the rise, college administrators say they don't want younger students taking seats away from Ohlone students.

The school plans to revise its admission policy for grade-schoolers in time for its summer session, when an average of 400 to 500 kindergartners through ninth-graders are on campus taking classes with older students.

For full-time students, the change could mean better access to the classes they need to graduate. But for some of the grade-school students, it could mean no longer being able to take the Ohlone classes they want.

The potential changes wouldn't affect students in grades 10 through 12, who would still have full access to Ohlone classes.

As for the younger students, Ohlone officials had been considering restricting their ability to take courses for some time. The college is concerned about liability issues stemming from the presence of mostly unsupervised younger students on the campus, officials said.

"It's a big campus for a youngster. A lot could happen," board member Garret Yee said.

And there are concerns about whether some of the students are mature enough to take English and art classes intended for adults.

The issue became more pressing this year as the state's budget deficit soared, reducing money available for education. With both the UC and Cal State systems potentially having to turn away students next year, community colleges are expecting to see more students enrolling—without new funds to accommodate them.

"As we are getting more and more impacted for courses, (the kindergarten through ninth-graders) are the people who are taking seats away from adults and college-aged students," said Ron Travenick, the college's associate vice president for student services.

This fall, 13,439 students enrolled districtwide—up 15 percent from 11,640 last fall.

Ohlone offers 149 class sections for grade-school students, Travenick said. The most popular class was Mandarin. Math, English and music also were popular, he said.

The classes are meant to give local students access to learning they can't get in high school or provide enrichment to students who are far ahead of grade level.

While Ohlone still wants to assist gifted children, administrators think many of the students could just as easily wait until high school to take the courses, Travenick said.

"We want to make sure the students really are exceptions," he said.

The college hasn't decided what do with other courses, such as Mandarin, that aren't offered at all area public schools. One option, Travenick said, could be to switch some of those classes to Ohlone for Kids, an after-school and summer program that offers increased supervision, but charges tuition.

Fremont reporter Matthew Artz can be reached at 510-353-7002 or Read his blog posts at

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