LONG BEACH - In the past year, Long Beach City College has faced state budget cuts, program reductions and cutbacks in enrollment.

But with renewed state funding and commitment to programs designed to improve transfer and graduation rates, the future looks bright, LBCC President Eloy Oakley said in his State of the College address Friday.

"We're in the middle of the most challenging year in recent memory and we're still dealing with the effects of the great recession," he said. "But at no time have I been more confident about our direction and ability to meet the demands before us."

Oakley gave the sixth annual address highlighting LBCC's challenges, achievements and future progress.

Eloy Oakley, president of Long Beach City College.
Eloy Oakley, president of Long Beach City College. (Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

LBCC has seen a nearly 10 percent reduction in state funding in the past three years, forcing college officials to make difficult choices.

Last year, the college laid off 55 employees and reduced contracts for 96 positions for a savings of more than $5 million. Last week, the Board of Trustees voted to eliminate 11 programs that included mostly career technical courses.

Enrollment has been cut by more than 2,000 students and this year the college is offering 32 percent fewer classes compared to its peak enrollment year in 2008-2009.

"While difficult, (the cuts) were necessary to maintain the fiscal health of the college and to focus our remaining resources on programs that serve the majority of our students' needs," Oakley said. "And by taking these actions, we have helped position this college ... as California begins to emerge from recession."

The situation took a turn for the better in November when voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax measure, which provided more than $200 million in additional funding for community colleges.

Now, with stabilized funding, LBCC is moving forward, Oakley said.

Promise Pathways, a new program this year designed to improve graduation rates, is already showing progress, Oakley said. As part of the initiative, nearly 1,000 Long Beach Unified graduates received a free first semester at LBCC, priority registration and a mandatory orientation that maps out the classes required for transfer to a four-year university.

So far the program has helped hundreds more students successfully complete transfer-level courses, he said.

Through a grant from the Lumina Foundation, an organization dedicated to enrolling and graduating more students from college, LBCC has focused on helping more Latino students achieve college success.

Latinos make make up nearly half of the student population.

This month, college staff began working to establish a community advisory board focused on improving Latino college rates.

The college also has been a leader in the state's Transfer Associate Degree program, which creates a streamlined path to graduation by allowing students with 60 units of college coursework to transfer to a four-year university.

Statewide, 20 degree templates have been developed. LBCC has adopted 10 of them already, Oakley said.

"This is a significant victory for our students because it offers them a clear path to a degree with guaranteed transfer to the California State University," he said.

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