Budget Shortfall Forces $2 Million in Cuts

Photo of Clark College sign on Fort Vancouver Way

The proposed funding cuts in order to meet Clark’s $3.3 million budget shortfall were released Sept. 17.

When the Independent last reported on the budget deficit in June, the state legislature was still deciding the budget. On June 30 the budget passed and by July administrators knew what funds would be allocated for Clark, according to Bob Williamson, vice president of Administrative Services.

The budget shortfall had originally been projected to be $3.6 million in May, but Williamson said it ended up closer to $3.3 million.  Cuts in instruction will be close to $2 million, said Clark College President Bob Knight.

To determine these cuts, the Instructional Council, headed by Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook, developed a rubric to evaluate programs. The rubric scored instructional areas on job availability, program completion rates and student-to faculty ratios. State grants and a program’s ability to fund itself were reviewed as well.

Program evaluations with the rubric were already complete and released in June.

Students returning in September will mostly notice fewer sections of courses being offered, which may make scheduling their classes more difficult.

“If anything, what students will notice is that we will cut down on low enrollment classes,” Cook said in a previous article for the Independent. “But as far as a program going away, I wouldn’t expect that to happen next year. It would be announced next year but the actual cuts would take some time.”

Clark will continue to teach students enrolled in either a career-technical or degree transfer program if a required class gets cut.

“If you were going to get an AA degree in a specific area, and we were going to cut a class that was a requirement to get that degree, we would allow that class to remain until all the students that came here to get that degree had a chance to take that class before phasing it out,” Knight said.

These cuts are the result of a budget shortfall created by a decline in enrollment and state allocation, which combined make up nearly 80 percent of the operating budget.

“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 in an article appearing in the Independent in March.

In a previous interview with the Independent, Shanda Diehl, associate vice president for Planning and Effectiveness, said enrollment declines with an improving economy and increased job availability.

From 2008-09 to 2010-11, Clark’s operating budget had been growing rapidly, increasing by $9.5 million. Last year, however, the school saw signs of shrinking in enrollment and allocation and cut $1.4 million from the operating budget.

But the operating budget does not fund all of the college’s expenditures. The construction of the new STEM building is paid for by the capital budget, which is composed of funding from the state as well as a building fee paid by students which is then distributed throughout the state, according to Williamson.

The Clark College Foundation, a fundraising partner of the school, is another source of funding for projects like the Gaiser Hall culinary space remodel, according to Knight.

“The Foundation provides what we call the ‘margin of excellence’ – funding for scholarships, classroom and lab equipment, technology, capital projects and program enhancements,” Williamson said.

Students may also like to hear about the state’s decision to cut tuition by 5 percent. This will affect how much students pay but not the school’s budget.

“The state legislature agreed to backfill tuition loss with state dollars,” Williamson said. “Our share of this backfill appears to be sufficient to cover what we expect to lose in tuition revenue.”

Knight said even though the budget is accounted for, the funding is not sustainable. “We have to make permanent cuts so we no longer need to use temporary funds,” he said.

“If we don’t meet our enrollment targets, or if cuts are made in our state allocation, then the College will have no choice but to look at additional ways to trim costs,” Williamson said. “But we can certainly reassure students that program cuts – if they have to be made – will be done thoughtfully and with input from students and their representatives on ASCC.”

 

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