$160,000 in Fitness: Budget Cuts Trim PE

Close up of basket ball hoop in a gym.

PE department head Mike Arnold sees a contradiction among the proposed budget cuts. “At the national level they say we need more movement, more activity, more engagement,” yet his department could be taking one of the biggest hits.

Among Clark’s suggested $2.6 million budget cuts for 2016 is the proposal to eliminate the fitness trainer program and cut 60 sections of Physical Education, saving the college almost $160,000.

While it has not been decided which sections of PE would be cut, Arnold said that trimming PE is nothing new. “In the past three years, we have reduced our course offerings already by 68 courses or 88 credits,” he said. “So at the present time we are offering 41 fewer courses than we did just two years ago.”

Departments submitted their feedback to the Instructional Council, which began making the final decisions on Oct. 9.

Arnold suggested specialty courses and sports conditioning could be trimmed. He said if each course is limited in how many are offered but the variety of classes is not reduced, then more of students’ preferences can be met. He also said Clark is one of the only colleges still giving student-athletes PE credit.

“On a larger scope we recognize that physical activity is beneficial to the bodies and the minds of our students,” Arnold said, “but on a practical level we also understand that budgets need to be trimmed down.”

Lisa Borho, head of the Houston personal trainer program for 10 years, said she disagrees with the Instructional Council’s justification that an Associate of Applied Science degree is not necessary for a career.

“You don’t need an education to get a job, but you need an education to make a livable wage,” she said.

Jonathan Spears opened his own fitness company, called Spears Strong, two and a half months ago without a degree in fitness training. While he is certified by Adapt Training and the National Council on Strength and Fitness, he does value a degree, especially for younger students.

“If you’re coming out of high school and you want to be into some type of personal training, there’s so much information out there that you really need to know,” Spears said. “If you’re not willing to learn on your own, immersing yourself into the program really teaches you the ins and outs.”

Without the life experience that Spears has, Borho said she doesn’t think a certification is enough. “We have a practice exam for the certification, but it’s a multiple choice test. How does a test prepare you for communicating with clients and recognizing poor form in person?”

In addition to preparing students for the National Academy of Sports Medicine exam, students can also work towards yoga, corrective exercise and group fitness certifications. According to the program pamphlet, graduates have a 100 percent pass rate on the NASM exam.

Borho has submitted a plea to the council to save the program. According to her justification, Fitness Trainer classes were at 102 percent of capacity at the start of the quarter.

Borho said most of the Fitness Trainer instructors are also qualified to teach in PE or health and may move there if the program is cut.

The program has many partners in the area, including NW Personal Trainer and LA Fitness. “People are finally looking for Clark trainer graduates,” Borho said.

The Fitness Trainer degree directly transfers to Portland State University where students can continue their bachelor’s degree.

Spears’ advice to students who are eager to become trainers is to keep an open mind to different types of fitness and to “never think you know it all.”

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