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Photo illustration by Yipeng Huang, Photo by Jawad Bhatti / Staff photographer

Applications for community colleges have steadily increased, and many schools say that they cannot meet the growing demand.

Community colleges are at full capacity. Students in West Harlem and Morningside Heights who hope to attend one of the community colleges within the City University of New York system may face tougher restrictions on admission. Flooded with applications, five of the six CUNY community colleges were forced to move up their admissions deadlines last summer, and some anticipate similar changes for the spring 2010 semester. "We do anticipate cutting it off at some point," said Thomas Bracken, assistant director of admissions at Bronx Community College. Barry Rosen, executive director of public affairs for Borough of Manhattan Community College, echoed Bracken, saying that although BMCC usually begins advertising in May for the following semester, advertising will begin in April this year to reflect the expected earlier deadline. BMCC instituted a new policy for spring 2010 transfer students, automatically placing any applicants with a GPA less than 2.0 on a waiting list. "It seems for us that we shouldn't be taking on students who have had, I would say, not very good records from other schools," Rosen said. Increases in application volume are not new for community colleges. Enrollment at BMCC has been increasing steadily over the past few years, from 19,259 in the fall of 2007 to 22,109 this past spring. The percentage of first-years has also risen each fall, from 20 percent in the fall of 2007 to 22.6 percent in the fall of 2008. But the influx of applications BMCC received for the 2009 fall semester was so great that it forced the school to close registration on June 22, the earliest of all the CUNY community colleges and well before the usual deadline of the day before classes. "It depends upon the number of spaces, and so people could actually enroll up until the last day if there are more spaces," Rosen said. "But this year, it came to a point where we had to shut down registration." BCC faced a similar situation. "They've been increasing steadily, one to two percent each semester," Bracken said of the number of applications BCC receives. "This year, to show you the spike, pure freshman applications spiked about 25 percent. If we kept on accepting applications, we wouldn't have had classes for them." This summer, Jean McTavish, principal of Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School on West 102nd Street, noticed that students who applied to BMCC over the summer were accepted not for the fall, but for the spring semester. McTavish said that community college is generally the next step for Reynolds students seeking higher education, because Reynolds is an alternative high school students can transfer to if they otherwise would not graduate. "It has helped our kids in the past to be able to apply in the summertime," she said, adding that rolling admissions help Reynolds students, who have six opportunities during the year to earn credit. "This is new." First-year BMCC student Mariah Robinson saw the impact of the deadline changes firsthand last year. "They're pushing people away now—too many people are applying," Robinson said. "I didn't get my acceptance letter until August. I thought it would come in the summer." Bracken's office made prospective applicants aware of the deadline change "at least a month in advance," he said, by posting a sign outside the admissions office. BMCC, which closed registration the earliest, notified potential applicants "about a week ahead of time," said Rosen, through their Web site and through e-mail. "Many of my friends wanted to come. They applied one week after I did and couldn't get in," Robinson said. "It was so stressful. Usually it's no problem." Crowded classrooms and packed buildings have caught students' attention. "When there was a fire drill at the beginning of the semester, there were so many people I took a video," said second-year BMCC student Karen Murillo. "It was packed. When I take the elevator in Murray Building, it can take a half an hour to get an elevator." Rosen of BMCC confirmed that the college has reached its capacity. "It had been getting more crowded," he said. "We want to provide as many amenities to students as possible. We are at that point now where we cannot do any more than we've done." Students who applied during the academic year did not seem as affected by the deadline changes. "I applied and got in—I don't remember exactly when, but during last school year," first-year BMCC student Chris Quinnonez said. "It wasn't a problem, and I knew I was coming as soon as I got the letter." Mostab Alli, in his second year at BMCC, has not noticed any changes. "Everything's OK here," he said. "It's not like going to Harvard—you need a high school diploma and a $65 money order." Local guidance counselors recommend applying as early as possible to avoid the consequences of shifting deadlines. Wade Klein, counselor for college admissions at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College of New York, does not have many students who go on to community colleges, since his is a specialized high school. Yet he encourages them to apply early to all schools. "I mandate early due dates for all of my students, so it kind of prevents that last-minute rush," Klein said. He said higher application rates are due to increased competition for spots in four-year programs, and to applicants looking to switch careers or continue their education in light of the recession. Bracken also cited the economy, as well as the rising costs of private education, as possible contributing factors to the spike in community college applications. Rosen pointed to economic factors as well, adding that funding for CUNY community colleges has increased and the reputation of community colleges in general has improved. "Obama's speech about the need for community colleges has given them more panache in the sense of the job situation," Rosen said.

CUNY community college Admissions