Purge brings out CSN students desperate to find an open class

Melinda Neff is 33 and she has five children at home and her husband’s car got a flat tire on the way over here, and now it is almost 8 a.m. and the gate at Student Services will be coming up shortly.

Thank goodness. It had been a long wait.

Neff arrived at 10:15 Sunday night. That’s how desperate she was to get into a single class at the bursting-at-the-seams College of Southern Nevada. She had to be first in line.

“I sat out there all night with a book and a flashlight and a Wendy’s salad,” she said Monday morning, recalling the long wait.

She needs just one class to get credentials that will allow her to work as a certified nursing assistant. Without it, she’ll remain unemployed. But the class is full. She needs help getting in.

CSN is the largest education institution in the state, with more than 43,000 students enrolled last fall. But with budget cuts, growth has all but stopped.

Last fall, the college had to turn away more than 5,000 students because there was no more room. President Michael Richards said the same thing probably will happen this year, though it’s too early to say what the exact numbers will be. Classes don’t start until Aug. 29.

Monday was the first day students could register for classes that had previously been full. The college’s computer system automatically kicked students out of classes that they had registered for but hadn’t paid for by the deadline Friday.

Dozens of students waited in line on the Charleston campus Monday morning, hoping for help from staff members.

Neff said she couldn’t pre-register in April because she was away for a month when her grandmother died. After that, the class was full.

She tried very early Monday morning to register online — the computer system began allowing registrations at midnight — but the system kept crashing.

That is a common problem at registration time. The system gets overloaded, like the school itself.

Richards said the college has a new computer registration system this year. It is not as unreliable as the old system was, but it is not perfect either.

“We are seeing very heavy traffic,” he said. “That’s causing some instability.”

A school spokeswoman said that between midnight and 3:45 p.m. Monday, the computer system logged 19,845 transactions. That’s more than 1,000 per hour, with the bulk coming before 9 a.m.

Richards has predicted that CSN’s enrollment would decline this year because of budget cuts. Overall, the state’s higher education system’s state-supported budgets were cut 15 percent this year compared with last year. CSN’s cut is the same, 15 percent.

As of Friday, Richards said, there was a 3 percent decline in registration compared with the same time last year. That would equate to a decline of roughly 1,300 students.

But he added that there has been a surge in demand over the past 10 days, meaning no one can predict what enrollment will end up being.

“We could end up down or flat or even up,” he said.

In the past, the college did not prioritize who could register for classes. It was first-come, first-served. The new system allows students who are about to graduate to sign up for necessary classes before other students do.

But that did not apply on Monday, when there were only a few openings here and there.

That’s why Neff and the dozens of people in line with her arrived so early.

One of them was Dishaka Kenney , 27, a nursing student. She was in line for help with financial aid. She wanted to be sure everything was in order.

Same with Trista Rich, 26, who waited in line with her three children — an infant, a toddler and a 4-year-old.

She had been having trouble with the computer system because she was a student at CSN several years ago but has since gotten married. She has a new last name that the computer system doesn’t recognize. It wouldn’t let her register for anything.

She was hoping for help navigating the system so she could finally register. She wants to study nursing.

She said it is worth all the trouble to get an education.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake@review
journal.com or 702-383-0307.

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