Clark Predicts Budget Shortfall

By Tori Benavente in News

Clark College is anticipating a budget shortfall in the 2015-16 school year due to low enrollment and state allocation grants.

The Clark College Foundation raised $27 million in a five year campaign, but the money does not cover operating costs, Clark President Bob Knight said. That money is for equipment, scholarships and one time needs.

The operating budget–which pays for salaries, benefits, goods, services, equipment, travel, grants and payments–is based on money provided by the state legislature as well as tuition and fees paid by students and others, said Sabra Sand, director of Business Services for the college.

In 2014-15, 41.77 percent of funds for operations came from state allocation, 39.02 percent from tuition, 12.11 percent from Running Start and 7.1 percent from other fees.

“There will be a revenue shortfall for the upcoming year because enrollment is below what we budgeted it to be,” Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson said.

The enrollment for the current year has been down an average of 6 percent of what the college budgeted for each quarter.

In a previous interview with The Independent, Vice President of Planning and Effectiveness Shanda Diehl said an improving economy is the reason for the enrollment decrease. As the economy improves, people who would otherwise be in college find jobs.

“After years of cuts in state funding we are now much more dependent on tuition revenues and Running Start reimbursement than we are on the state allocation,” Williamson said. “That means when enrollment comes in below projection it has a much bigger impact on the budget.”

Clark students and faculty will be affected if enrollment continues to decline.

“We will not only have to offer fewer sections but we also don’t need as many part-time employees,” Williamson said.

Williamson predicts that next year there will be a “no-growth” budget.

When revenue is below what was projected, the administration asks departments to hold their spending, Williamson said.

Administration has made reductions in the past if the budget shortfall was large enough, Williamson said. The reductions have included a freeze on hiring and reduced travel costs.

Clark has no control over enrollment, state allocation and tuition rates, Sand said. The tuition rate is set by the state and has been locked for a few years.

While determining next year’s budget, Clark faces the challenge of not knowing how much money the Washington legislature will allocate.

In 2013, the legislature took until the day before the new fiscal year to pass the budget, Williamson said. “This budget-writing session looks just as contentious as the last one, so it makes it difficult to start planning a budget.”

Clark’s budget from 2014-15 shows that 53.5 percent of funds were used for instruction, 11.89 percent on student services, 10.97 on institutional support, 9.04 percent on plant operations and maintenance, 6.98 percent on primary support, 3.12 percent on other dedicated fees, 2.47 percent on libraries, 1.2 percent on corporate and continuing education and 0.84 percent on resale.

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