After her sophomore year at George Mason University, Kristina Schneider was so frustrated trying to get the classes she wanted that she considered, but then rejected, the idea of transferring.
"Now I'm a senior and I thought I'd be getting all my classes by now, and I'm in the same situation," lamented the 21-year-old from Springfield.
Worse, in fact, because state budget cuts have forced the cancellation of the European Studies 350 class that she needs to graduate in May. She says her only choices now are to drive 20 miles through rush-hour traffic to take it at 8:30 a.m. at George Washington University or to postpone graduation until December.
"I'm a little fed up with it, to tell you the truth," she said. "All they think about is building all those stupid buildings, and they don't care about offering the classes for students."
For a young, fast-growing university such as George Mason, the dramatic cuts in the state's higher education budget have taken a particularly heavy toll, university officials say. As enrollment soared during the 1980s, the university struggled to keep pace with student demands. Now, with budget cuts, students say the problem is worse than ever.
Like Virginia's 14 other state- supported four-year universities, George Mason has seen its funding shrink because of the state's $1.9 billion revenue shortfall.
About $7.3 million, or 11.9 percent, has been cut from its operating budget this year, and as much as $12.4 million, or 19.9 percent, could be cut from next year's.
To cope with that, the university has frozen hiring, lowered its thermostats this winter and turned off the late-night lights in some outlying parking lots. With fewer adjunct faculty members, courses have been dropped; the university is even considering eliminating some degree programs.
"We have tried to defend the classroom," said university spokeswoman Helen Ackerman. "We have tried not to let this affect the teaching in any way."
Still, Schneider said she never thought it would be this bad.
She was considering law school, but now, she says, everything may be pushed back by six months.
What's more, one of the degrees George Mason officials say they may drop or restructure is Schneider's major: European studies.
"It's a nightmare, especially if they cut out my major," she said.