A Butte of a college

[The local community college offers excellent two-year career programs as well as transferable classes]

Photo By Tom Angel

Just when you think you’ve reached the middle of nowhere, turn left and you’ll find yourself at one of California’s largest community colleges. Situated 12 miles southeast of Chico, among rolling hills populated by grazing cows, is the main campus of Butte-Glenn Community College, which enrolls more than 15,000 students annually.

Since its creation in 1967, Butte College has offered an educational beginning or a second chance to almost a third of a million students.

The college offers affordability and flexibility to those who might not otherwise be able to pursue a higher education. Many university students get their start at Butte, but not all students at Butte College enroll with the intent to transfer to another institution. Many of them register in career and technical-education programs or in self-enrichment courses.

While attending a community college is often billed as a two-year process, Butte College in the past has tracked students only in three-year time blocks. From fall 1998 to spring 2001, the Butte College Transfer Center purported that 29 percent of all students were prepared to transfer to four-year-university level after a three consecutive years of enrollment. The standards for transfer preparedness are the completion of 56 or more units with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

From accounting courses to welding technology certificates, Butte has a diverse range of offerings for its students. The nursing, fire protection and law enforcement programs are regionally acknowledged for their excellence of instruction.

And, for those continuing on, the main attractions of Butte College are the transferable general-education courses and classes that correlate with upper-division requirements to help to prepare students to graduate from a four-year university.

Surrounded by hills and fields, the Butte College campus is also an officially designated wildlife refuge. Only a portion of the 928-acre campus is developed, but plans are to increase Butte’s permanent facilities in the near future. Portable trailers and other temporary buildings will continue to be used as classrooms and office space until there is room in new state bond-sponsored buildings.

Most Butte College admissions brochures and related publications illustrate the campus in a state of perpetual autumn where the leaves are never any color but red and gold. (Those expecting an environmental autumn utopia may be disappointed to find that the foliage does vary in hue throughout the year.) The campus is well-maintained and lends itself to many outdoor events throughout the year.

The Associated Students, which is essentially synonymous with the student activities office (they share the same staff and adviser), sponsors many annual events. A representative festival is Rattlesnake Days, which is held each spring semester. The event features live music, vendors, and activities for students, with the recent addition of a karaoke contest. Students are enthralled to see faculty, staff members and cafeteria workers perform out on the campus lawn. The A.S. also sponsors many forums about political and social issues to encourage student involvement in current issues.

Many of the student programs at Butte College garner state and national attention each year. The football team has been a launch pad for many successful athletic professionals. The Students in Free Enterprise were the international champions in their competition in 2001 and continue to compete nationally. Phi Theta Kappa, the international honors society, has an award winning adviser and helps advanced students to compete academically.

Student accomplishments often extend beyond the borders of the college into the greater community. The Butte College Department of Performing Arts sponsors several plays each year, including the Shakespeare in the Park series featured in Chico each summer.

Despite its program successes, however, Butte is not immune to statewide educational budget cuts. Many programs will be facing cutbacks in the near future.

Non-residential colleges typically have a difficult time instilling a strong sense of school spirit within students. Administrators know well that the creation of student allegiances to the school can result in the giving of donations or the willing of estates to the college district. The Butte College Foundation, the body for created for handling donations, has recently created an alumni organization in an attempt to rally financial support and school spirit among students both past and present.