COLLEGE PARK -- Angela Olivito arrived on the University of Maryland's College Park campus extra early yesterday morning, but, instead of joining her friends in Spanish class, she stood in line with thousands of other students who can't sign up for the courses they need.
"Today is the first day . . . and I can't even get into my classes. That's a bad start," the 22-year-old sophomore said as she stood in a meandering line of students trying to register for the courses they need to graduate.
College Park administrators say massive budget cuts in academic departments have chopped available classroom space by 8,000 seats this semester, forcing thousands of students to settle for whatever courses are available.
Students poured into the campus' Reckord Armory yesterday, hoping to get a place on a waiting list, which in turn would qualify them to call in every day for two weeks in hopes of landing a seat.
Mrs. Olivito waited for 30 minutes to find out she couldn't get any of the five classes she wanted -- including sophomore English and economics courses she needs.
She wasn't alone.
John Lipka, a 25-year-old business administration major, waited in the same line to get a course he needs to graduate this semester, and he was turned away as well.
"If I don't get my classes this semester, then I have to wait an extra four months before I can," Mr. Lipka said as he shuffled the assortment of triplicate forms students need to register.
Ed Choi, a 25-year-old electrical engineering major, also was worried about getting the one course he needs to graduate.
"When you end up on the wait list, you expect the worst," he said. "And the wait list has been a part of UM for years."
William Spann, the College Park records and registrations director, acknowledged the problems but said the university is working hard to meet the demand.
"The wait lists are bigger than they've ever been," Mr. Spann said. "I don't want to say that every need can be met, but there are a lot of problems that can be solved."
Mr. Spann said graduating seniors get top priority, with most of the course eliminations coming from lower division classes taken by freshmen and sophomores.
College Park President William Kirwan blamed space shortage on $17 million in cuts to academic programs in the past two years, cuts that have forced the layoff of 200 part-time instructors. Dr. Kirwan said up to 240 full-time campus employees -- including some instructors -- could face layoffs by the end of this year.
College Park administrators also have proposed eliminating up to seven academic departments.
"I think all of this is very distressing," Dr. Kirwan said. "I say that to the faculty and administrators who had to turn back part of their pay this year, and also to all those people who have been laid off."
As a result of the cutbacks, there are 8,000 fewer classroom seats this year than there were at this time last year. That has made life difficult for the school's 25,000 undergraduates.
"We can't always make adjustments with the speed in which the cuts came," Mr. Spann said. "I'm concerned about what happens if they do make more cuts in the next year. I don't know where we stand right now for the next year."
Some students say they are considering leaving.
"I think I may just transfer out of here," said Gregory Eckerlin, a freshman from Syracuse, N.Y., who began his second semester at College Park yesterday. "I had to register for classes I don't want. I'm wait-listed for freshman English -- and that's required by all freshmen. It's just gotten ridiculous."
Despite the problems he's facing, the 18-year-old said he understood the budget problems at the university's flagship campus. He said his father was laid off last fall from Cornell University, a state-assisted Ivy League college in New York that has been hit by budget cutbacks.