LONG BEACH - The Long Beach City College Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted to eliminate 11 programs this fall as hundreds of students and faculty sounded their voices in protest.

President Trustee Roberto Uranga said the reductions were difficult but necessary to keep the college afloat and offset a $6.4 million structural deficit left from state funding cuts.

"It's not popular but it's the right thing to do to keep this college (fiscally) sound and actively working to provide quality programs and services to our students and this community," he said, adding that programs on the list were the result of a careful decision-making process that took more than a year.

Students, staff and faculty fill the Long Beach City College board room to hear the decision on which programs would be cut at LBCC. All the programs on
Students, staff and faculty fill the Long Beach City College board room to hear the decision on which programs would be cut at LBCC. All the programs on the proposed list were cut with the exception of the diagnostic medical imaging (DMI) program, which has been spared for now. Trustee member Mark Bowen, right, is thanked by a DMI student after he voted to save the DMI program. (Scott Varley / Staff Photographer)

The five-member board voted 4-1 in favor of the program eliminations following a three-hour meeting on the college's liberal arts campus. Trustee Mark Bowen was the lone member to vote against the proposal.

In front of a room filled with more than 200 faculty and students, Lynn Shaw, president of the faculty union, said the arts and trade programs are essential for the community and local work force.

The 11 programs to be cut include: auto body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, interior design, welding, automotive technology, real estate, photography, air conditioning/refrigeration /heating, diesel mechanics and carpentry.

Officials had recommended to discontinue the diagnostic medical imaging program, but the board voted to keep the program through July 2014, noting its high completion rate and future growth predicted in the medical field.

Jim Steele, chairman of diagnostic medical imaging, said his program has a wait list of 130 students and provides graduates with good-paying jobs in the medical field. Lakewood resident Sarah Reddik, 24, has been on the waiting list for more than three years and is slated to start the program this fall.

Reddik said she's relieved the board decided to keep the program for now. Reddik was joined by her mother Robin Reddik, who graduated from the diagnostic medical imaging program at LBCC in 1982 and hopes her daughter can follow in her footsteps.

Javier Rivera, department chairman of construction trades, said his department lost six out of its nine programs, leaving just architecture, electronics and sheet metal. Rivera said the demand for construction jobs is projected to grow up to 17 percent by 2014 and many of his students are now preparing for jobs on the new Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project, which broke ground this month.

"There's every indication the need for construction is growing in our area and yet we're losing these important trades," he said.

"Construction trades have now been virtually wiped out at Long Beach City College. It doesn't make any sense."

Nancy Allen, head of the audio production program since 1986, said her program supplies sound for film, music and theater and is an essential component in the entertainment industry. The program was the only one in the music department to be cut.

"We do the sound for everybody, which is why this is so baffling," she said.

Student Marcel Cook said he was hoping to complete the auto body technology program and start a career as a mechanic. Cook, 22, said he's now considering other options, such as joining the military.

"These are programs for jobs that we're always going to need, so I don't really understand why they're doing this," Cook said.

Officials said the college will work with affected students to provide counseling and other support services, including offering summer 2013 courses for discontinued programs in which five or more students are within two classes of graduation.

The program eliminations could include layoffs for up to 18 full-time faculty, which will be decided under faculty seniority rules next month. The college has about 200 academic programs and more than 300 full-time faculty.

The struggles at LBCC highlight the state's funding crisis in education. California's community college system has seen an $809 million loss in state funding since 2008.

LBCC has seen its funding cut by more than $10 million, or 9.7 percent, while at the same time experiencing an increase in demand from local students and record numbers of high school graduates.

Trustee Jeffrey Kellogg noted that the college still faces a structural deficit despite the passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, in November.

"We're taking this action because it is truly the best of a bad situation," he said.

LBCC officials originally planned to cut up to 17 programs but decided to save a few following the passage of Prop. 30.

Programs planned for elimination that were saved include: film, sheet metal, human services, medical assisting and radio-television.

Officials said the recommendations were made following input from faculty, union representatives and administrators.

LBCC President Eloy Oakley has said the reductions will allow the college to focus more resources on core courses, such as math, English and science, to improve transfer and graduation rates.

Last fall, hundreds of students were put on waiting lists for core courses despite efforts to increase class sizes by about 10 percent.

Oakley said the college still has a comprehensive career technical education program, adding that the college will continue to develop new technical programs in high-demand fields including cyber security and engineering.

The college will save $2.4 million from the proposed program cuts, but the savings will not be enough to close the budget shortfall.

Officials are considering additional reductions in management, full-time faculty and other staff.

Last year, the board voted to lay off 55 employees and reduce contracts for 96 positions for a savings of more than $5 million.

kelly.puente@press-telegram.com, 562-714-2181, twitter.com/kellypuentept