The parking lot is full. The halls are cluttered. Many classes are packed with students.
Summer is over and, across the state, college students are returning to campuses.
This year, however, college budgets are tights and students face an increase in tuition. At Oklahoma City Community College, legislative cuts to the higher education system, caused school officials to increase tuition by 4.9 percent.
That increase was smaller than than many; OU and OSU raised their tuition by 5 percent or more.
College President Jerry Steward is confident in the school’s ability to overcome it financial obstacles. “We want to make sure our students succeed in any way that they can,” Steward said.
Mike Stafford, faculty member at OCCC for more than a decade, speaks to a crowd of incoming freshmen at table filled with maps of the campus and complimentary pens.
“I see a steady stream of about 50 people in one hour,” Stafford said. “Thursday should be the last day that we’re going to be out helping people out here in the public. That being said, any of the faculty are willing to help the students any time of the semester.”
Stafford had advice for students starting back to school on the main campus.
“If you want to make sure that you have a good, solid week back to school, show up the day before,” he said. “That way, you can know where your classes are and you don’t have to be late or miss a class because of it.”
Students have been encouraged to help each other. Sophomore Chaz Griffis sits at the bar top of the coffee shop in the middle of the campus. Sipping on a cold caramel machiatto, he looks at the incoming crowd.
“It’s great to be back,” Griffis said.
Griffis is working on a General Business Degree. With two semesters left, he plans to enroll at the University of Oklahoma as a business major.
“OCCC has been real nice to me since I’ve been here,” Griffis said. “I’m a full-time student, full-time worker so I take my schooling seriously. I can’t stress how important it is for people to show up to class. That’s the only way you’re for sure going to make it through school to do what you want.”
Campus police patrol are visible and active. Beth Batman, a campus police assistant for over two years, sits outside the bookstore while students drop off the their bag before they shop. Bateman is a part of three-person crew providing security. She estimated the group can attend to over 500 students in a day.
“It’s not crazy busy but we definitely get the job done,” she said. “We just want to make sure that the students are safe and that their belongings are being taken care of. It can be hard to carry a full bag and an arm full of books. Chances are that you’ll forget something. We’re here to help.”
Campus life can be challenging for new students. Most of the students are either fresh out of high school or returning to college after being away for the summer. According to apa.org, an organization that studies anxiety and depressing in higher education institutions, more that 41 percent of college students suffer from anxiety.
Jason Wyneman, a freshman from Tuttle, enrolled at OCCC to study automotive technology. He hopes to get his associate’s degree in automotive repair before going to a trade school.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do college but it was my Mom that talked me into it,” Wyneman said. “I know that with student loans and everything that it won’t be easy but it’s worth it. I think this is the first step towards my future.”
As the semester continues on, a college student is only as good as the help that they have been provided.
Students have been encouraged to seek help from the writing and communications lab. Student services like Student Life, Financial Aid, and college counseling are offered to anyone who needs it.
“I know that money might be a bit tight for a while but I think it’s worth it,” Wyneman said. “I’d much rather pay my dues now to get a better future than wait for something to maybe show up. With OCCC, I feel like this is my best chance to do what I want with the rest of my life.”