Editorial: Cuesta appears back on track

Cuesta College is on course to reinstate a full-fledged summer school in 2011 — a smart decision, especially since other colleges are scaling back summer programs.

First and foremost, a full schedule of summer classes is good news for students who want to take advantage of the short summer term to knock out some requirements.

It could also turn out to have big financial benefits for the college, since Cuesta could lose some state funding if it doesn’t meet enrollment targets.

As reported in today’s Tribune, Cuesta’s fall enrollment was soft, and officials hope to make up for that with strong spring and summer enrollments.

The slight dip in fall enrollment was an anomaly. Given the state’s economic woes, many community colleges saw enrollments rise, as laid-off workers attempted to improve their prospects by going back to school. Fall enrollment at Hancock College in Santa Maria, for example, was up 12 percent this fall, and much of that increase came from San Luis Obispo County.

So what happened at Cuesta?

College officials fear that misconceptions about the college’s accreditation status — it’s currently on probation — could have been a factor in discouraging fall enrollment.

If so, that would be a shame, because the concerns raised by the accreditation commission were related almost exclusively to administrative shortcomings — such as lack of a formal, strategic plan — and had nothing to do with the quality of classroom education.

College officials have taken several steps — including completing a strategic plan — to cure the deficiencies cited by the accreditation commission. They expect a good outcome when the commission announces its decision in January.

There are no guarantees, of course, but it appears that under the leadership of President Gil Stork — who is serving a two-year appointment — college officials have done as much as they can to meet the requirements of the accreditation commission.

After some rough patches, they also are making progress in rebuilding community confidence by restoring some of the offerings that had been cut.

Along with reinstating a full summer school program, for example, the college also plans to offer more classes in the upcoming spring semester. That should help the college recapture some of the enrollment lost to Hancock College.

While much remains to be done — including appointment of a new president — it’s good to see Cuesta College back on track.