By Ian Flores
Pulse staff reporter
With Palo Alto College’s enrollment around 9,500 students, the campus is consistently packed in the early morning to around noon with students heading to class or hanging out with friends and classmates.
However, in the afternoons and on Fridays, it’s the total opposite of the usual hustle and bustle. During that time period, the campus essentially becomes a ghost town. The cars you see in the parking lot are mostly owned by faculty and staff in addition to a few Early College High School students.
If it weren’t for the Early College classes made up of students from schools like Southside, Harlandale and McCollum, the campus would be more empty than usual in the afternoons. Their attendance here at PAC has boosted the number of afternoon students in recent years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
According to Sergio Rivera, Facilities superintendent of Palo Alto College, “The more the facilities are used by students, the better.”
Rivera also said that faculty are here to meet the needs of the students and also those of non-traditional students who might be looking for late afternoon and evening classes. Non-traditional students would be interested in afternoon and evening classes with the hopes of getting the same courses that usually run in the mornings only.
Part-time enrollment at PAC for Fall 2016 was nearly 81 percent, and 45 percent of those students were strictly online students. The percentage of online students over the last five years from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016 was steady, at around 46 percent. The Alamo Colleges Bond Package recently passed gives $47 million to Palo Alto College to build three new buildings.
Peter Myers, History professor at Palo Alto College asked, “How many buildings should be open past a certain time if they are not being used?”
Myers said, “It saves the campus and Alamo Colleges money by conserving energy if only certain buildings were open for faculty, students and staff after a certain time in the afternoons and also makes it much easier to maintain.”
In past years, Myers said the college would decrease tuition for those students who were willing to take afternoon classes.
The campus has also been traditionally empty on Fridays in the last couple years with the implementation of the Monday/Wednesday and or Tuesday/Thursday class schedule set in the 2015-2016 academic year.
“With the campus being empty, usually on Fridays, it gives the Facilities crew opportunities to do work around campus that couldn’t be done usually during the week,” said Rivera.
Myers thinks Fridays can be used for a Maymester type of plan to attract students. With three hours in the morning or afternoon, a student could knock out a class like a U.S. History I or U.S. History II within four weeks and move on to the next one.
Sarah Freeman, a sophomore at Palo Alto College, said, “A Friday-Mester to complete courses at a quicker rate would be a dream scenario for first-time students coming into college.”
Another suggestion that many students at Texas A&M-San Antonio have offered is to use the empty classrooms for TAMUSA classes here at Palo Alto, since their campus has been more crowded with the recent influx of freshman students allowed for the first time in the fall of 2017. Their enrollment grew 18 percent, with nearly 6,500 students in fall 2017 compared to 5,500 in fall 2016.