An unexpected "wave" of students enrolling at Salt Lake Community College is stretching the school's resources during its first week of school.
Enrollment, which was expected to hold steady this semester, is up about 700 FTE, the equivalent of full-time students, or by 1,400 actual students over the first day of classes last year.
"As of (Tuesday) night, 6,125 people were on wait lists trying to get into classes they need" — a record number — said Judd Morgan, vice president for student services.
"It's a zoo today," college spokesman Jay Williams added. As many as 800 students are trying to get into basic English classes.
The college is opening new class sections as quickly as it can find qualified instructors and open rooms.
Extra classrooms have been found at the Larry H. Miller Center for Entrepreneurship Training in Sandy.
The LDS Institute of Religion, near the Redwood Campus, has also volunteered classrooms in their building.
"They just recently quadrupled the size of the institute, so they had some space," Williams said. "We took all that we can get."
Sophomore Nina Mendoza is on waiting lists for three classes this week — all required courses.
"There's my biology class, the lab for my biology class and my math class. They're all full," Mendoza said.
Freshman George Manu said elective courses are also crowded.
"I'm going early right now to my guitar class," he said. "Things are very full, but I figure if I go early and sit in the front row, I'll have a better chance."
Morgan said faculty and staff are making "heroic efforts" to admit more students into class.
Morgan said his best explanation for the increase is that students are less wary of the semester system than in the past.
"Ever since the semester conversion, students have had a difficult time understanding the difference between credit hours and semester hours . . . and so they took fewer classes," he said. "Students are getting used to the semester system now and taking more hours, because they know they can handle more hours."
But that doesn't explain the 1,400 additional students on campus.
"That's really a tough question to answer," said Eric Weber, dean of administrative services. "We really haven't introduced a big new program or a new campus site or expansion that would drive those numbers. I can only think it's just the continued popularity of the college."
Last week, administrators at the college were directed by President Lynn Cundiff to teach at least one class each year. Although not created to deal with overcrowding, the policy has been put to use during this week's crunch.
Several administrators scrambled to begin teaching Wednesday morning.