3 Reasons Behind $3.6 Million

By Tori Benavente and Danny Tomko in News

What is happening and what is expected to happen?

The $3.6 million operations budget shortfall Clark expects for 2015-16 will likely mean deep program cuts after a review of all Instructional programs.

In a conversation with Indy staff members on May 4, two college vice presidents said Clark officials made cuts over the years but are now looking at academic program eductions.

They blame lower enrollments, stagnant state funding and increased operational costs.

In addition Instruction cuts, students may also experience longer lines at various student services, including Financial Aid, Admission and Registration, Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson predicted.

Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook heads the Instructional Council which developed a rubric to help determine what Instructional cuts will be made. The rubric focuses on factors such as job availability, program completion rates and student-to-faculty ratios, Cook said.

According to Cook, state grants and the ability of a program to fund itself are also being considered to determine the cuts.

Cook mentioned the Computer-Aided Drafting course, which has low enrollment, but receives state grants for aerospace study that more than cover course costs. “If we were to close that, we would actually have to send money back to the state,” Cook said.  “And it would not make any sense to do that.”

These cuts will not be identified or implemented immediately, Cook and Williamson said. Clark is waiting for state legislators to pass a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The Legislature is in a 30-day special session in Olympia, with the express purpose of passing a state budget.

According to Williamson, there is no guarantee that the state budget will be approved within the session. He noted there is deep disagreement between the state House and Senate.

“They are still miles apart,” Williamson said. “The House thinks it can only be solved by raising taxes in some areas and closing tax loopholes in others. The Senate believes you can fully fund public education and satisfy the McCleary requirement without raising taxes.”

In 2013 the Legislature did not pass a budget until June 30, the last day of the fiscal year, Williamson said.  “We were all biting our nails and pacing back and forth like expectant parents because we didn’t know when they would give birth to a budget.”

Because of that uncertainty, there is no firm timetable on when the cuts at Clark will be decided. “We hope to have some information out regarding first cuts before faculty leave in June,” Cook said.

After college administrators develop a final budget proposal, they will send it to Clark’s Board of Trustees who have final approval.

One scenario administrators are looking at for dealing with the deficit is to increase e-Learning fees.

Instruction considers Clark’s $30 online and $15 hybrid fees pretty low and are looking at raising them, Cook said. Officials are also talking about a fee for web-enhanced classes. “Right now online and hybrid students are paying for all of the e-Learning services, and anyone using web-enhanced is not paying for that,” Cook said.

As for the impact on faculty, non-tenured faculty would feel the cuts first. If a program were cut, tenured faculty would be moved to other programs for which they are qualified, Cook said.

“That’s a full-time contractual tenured right,” Cook said. “The non-tenured folks, the temporary full-time or the adjuncts, frankly don’t have the same job security as the tenured.”

Cook said if a career technical program were cut, the college is legally required to “teach out” those students.  “For students that are still in a program, we would make sure that they had a reasonable amount of time to get the classes they need to finish.”

The vice president for Instruction added, “It could take up to a year or longer to teach out some of these programs. We could decide to cut a program, and not see any real financial benefit for over a year.”

What Can Students Do?

“As with any major issue, students are always able to contact their state representatives and legislators. As elected officials, they are tasked with listening to the concerns of their constituents. In addition, President Knight has created a very open environment here at the college. Students can make time to talk with the President or any member of the executive cabinet.” – Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson on how students can have their voices heard.

ASCC Student Relations & Promotions Coordinator – Anna Evanson

360-992-2353 x3133 – asccpr@clark.edu

Bob Knight – rknight@clark.edu

State Senators:

Sen. Don Benton, Vancouver – 360-786-7632 – don.benton@leg.wa.gov

Sen. Ann Rivers, La-Center – 360-786-7634 – ann.rivers@leg.wa.gov

Sen. Annette Cleveland, Vancouver – 360-786-7696 – annette.cleveland@leg.wa.gov

State representatives:

Rep. Paul Harris, Vancouver – 360-786-7976 – paul.harris@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Lynda Wilson, Vancouver – 360-786-7994 – lynda.wilson@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Sharon Wylie, Vancouver – 360-786-7924 – sharon.wylie@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Jim Moeller, Vancouver – 360-786-7872 – jim.moeller@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Liz Pike, Camas – 360-786-7812 – liz.pike@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Brandon Vick, Felida – 360-786-7850 brandon.vick@leg.wa.gov


How did we get here?

Clark officials blame three main factors for the $3.6 million budget shortfall they face for 2015-16: low funding from the state, lower enrollment and rising operational costs.

As for rising operational costs, Vice President for Administrative Services Bob Williamson said, “There are costs of doing business that just go up every year that you must fund contractually. So as the must-fund items increase, revenue decrease together, you end up with a $3.6 million hole.”

As for the funding from the state, local officials are quick to point to what they consider an unfairness for Clark, compared with what other Washington community and technical colleges receive.

“Historically, Clark has been one of the lowest funded colleges in the system,” said Vice President of Administration Bob Williamson.

Williamson said the state, through the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, allocates funds to 34 colleges and considers full-time enrollment in its formula.  A student who takes 15 credits per quarter for three quarters is counted as a full-time equivalent. On average, the board allocates $4,100 to a college for each full-time student, Williamson said.

But according to Clark’s Planning and Effectiveness department, Clark is allocated $3,502 per FTE.

The formal that the SBCTC uses to allocate funds is over 10 years old, said Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook. “It didn’t account for growth as it kept over time. So colleges like us that were growing over that period were actually penalized or hurt. Other colleges that were flat or declined might have benefitted in some cases.”

State Board Member Anne Fennessy, who was at Clark last week when the state board met in Vancouver, said she understands the difficulty Clark faces.“It’s a bad thing that we don’t have the money to fund, and with the lack overtime of state support for both individual students and for faculty, I think it’s a travesty.”

In the past, Clark was able to offset the budget problems because the state increased tuition and enrollment was high. But that’s not likely this next year.  “The governor, the House and the Senate, if they agree on anything it’s no tuition increase in the next biennium,” Williamson said.

Another way Clark officials have dealt with the lower state allocations in the past has been to accept more students, which the college was able to do when the economy was poor a few years ago.

During the recession, from Fall 2008-Fall 2009, there was an increase in enrollment of 1,764 FTEs, according to data from the Planning and Effectiveness department.

Other colleges decided to cap their enrollment during this time of growth, but Clark chose to open their doors to everyone, Williamson said. “I think we made the right decision for our community.”

During those bountiful years, Clark hired slightly over 500 adjunct professors, part-time staff and others in Student Affairs to accommodate the herd of incoming students, Cook said.

The money to hire those employees came from excess-enrollment dollars, which is money collected from students above the base level of enrollment, which at Clark is 7,003 FTEs, not counting Running Start students, according to director of Business Services Sabra Sand.

But per student, the college doesn’t pocket as much from excess-enrollment dollars as it does from state allocations.

As Clark experienced growth, the Legislature increased tuition by 7 percent in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11. For the 2011-12 year, tuition was raised by 12 percent, according to Sand. And then for the next year, for 2012-13, it increased another 12 percent.

But as the economy improved, enrollment dropped and now the college is looking at a smaller budget.  According to Planning and Effectiveness, enrollment dropped from 9,637 FTEs in 2011-12, then to 8,814 FTEs in 2012-13 and 7,942 FTEs in 2013-14. This does not include Running Start students.
Now, Clark is projecting 7,000 FTEs for the upcoming year, Sand said.

“We anticipated that at some point enrollment was going to at least level off,” Williamson said. “Those numbers were dramatically, historically high. They weren’t going to stay that way forever.”

Williamson added, “We knew that the economy would get better at some point. I don’t think we anticipated that enrollment would drop as fast and deep as it did.”

The vice president for Administrative Services noted that Clark has already cut $3.2 million from its budget, beginning with the 2013-14 budget.

For one, the college opted not to hire as many adjunct faculty. Today, Clark has about 285 adjuncts, Cook said.

“We’ve done our share to find efficiencies, but the state funding system is structurally unsound and we’re being punished for that in having to now find yet another layer of cuts beyond the 3.2 we’ve already made that I don’t think we should have to, but that’s reality and it’s not going to change overnight.”

How can we afford a new STEM building when we have a $3.6 million shortfall?

There are two main budgets: the capital budget and the operating budget.

The STEM building is funded by the capital budget.

The capital budget is a state allocated budget that is funded by the building fee students pay in their tuition, according to Director of Business Sabra Sand. The school remits the building fee to the state, and then the state allocates it out to schools for new buildings or infrastructure.

The capital budget is not allowed to cover ongoing expenditures, Sand said.

The operating budget receives about 42 percent of its revenue from state allocation, 39 percent from tuition, 12 percent from Running Start and 7 percent from other fees.

The operating budget is broken down by 53 percent funds instruction, 11 percent institutional support, 11 percent student services, 9 percent plant operations and maintenance, 6 percent primary support, 3 percent other dedicated fees and about 1 percent Corporate and Continuing Education.

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