By Danny Tomko in News
As Clark officials move forward with how to best deal with a $3.6 million budget shortfall for the coming year, the administration released a rubric on June 2 rating the effectiveness of both career-technical and academic transfer programs.
The idea is to provide decision-makers a framework for deciding what programs might be cut.
The Instructional Council, headed by Vice President for Instruction Tim Cook, evaluated and rated programs based on their graduation rates, job prospects, duplication of services by other local colleges and adherence to Clark’s retention plan.
Dean of Social Sciences and Fine Arts Miles Jackson, a member of the IC, said the rubric is just the first step in the process. “We’re not just going to mechanically use the rubric,” he said. Clarifying, he said that if a department scores below a certain level, it won’t mean it would be targeted for elimination.
This undoubtedly is welcome news for programs like Reading, Environmental Science, and French, which scored low in the rubric.
Cook warned that officials purposefully did not rank the programs ‘top to bottom.’
“Four years ago when we did this process, we literally came out with lists,” Cook said. “People would go right to the bottom of the list and say ‘oh you’re going to cut that program’ and that’s just not how this process works.”
Cook also said that any major cuts would not be immediately felt by students. “If anything, what students will notice is that we will cut down on low enrollment classes,” Cook said.
“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.”
The time line for the cuts would start in fall. “What will happen is the Instructional Council will spend the summer looking at the rubrics and examining programs,” Cook said. “Once faculty get back in the fall we will push out a proposal saying ‘we believe these programs deserve further attention and possibly to be cut.”
“Even after that, there will still be a contractual process that will take the rest of the year.”
Regardless of the results of the rubric completion, decisions on cuts cannot be made until the administration knows what Washington state lawmakers will do during their Special Legislative Session to resolve the budget. According to the The Columbian, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for an extension to the session starting May 29.
The gridlock stems from a basic partisan ideal. Rep. Paul Harris, summed it up best for The Columbian, “There is a group that feels like we have to raise taxes and a group that feels like we do not need to raise taxes.”
Rep. Jim Moeller expects the legislative sessions to continue up until the deadline of June 30, as both sides are firm in their arguments.
He joked that an outside factor could lead to an early break. “We could end around the 18th,” Moeller said. “That’s when the PGA tour comes to town, and they’ll be taking up all the hotels.”
Director of Financial Aid Karen Driscoll indicated that the Legislature’s delay could affect student financial awards. “If the legislators settle the budget by June 22, students should see no delay or reduction in funds,” Driscoll said. “If the Legislature delays approving the budget, we will need to evaluate how we will proceed.”
Driscoll noted that Clark does have options in place for dealing with a delay, including delaying dispersion of financial aid and making use of local funds to pay students’ needs. In the short term, students who have been awarded financial aid will not be penalized for failing to pay Summer tuition.
Driscoll also warned though that Financial Aid is not responsible for disbursing funds, if there is no money available to disperse. This language is included in the contracts students sign before receiving funds.
Driscoll was confident these measure would not be necessary. “Frankly, I don’t think we will get to that point. The report I received yesterday from the Washington Student Achievement Council indicated we would see movement [on the budget] in the next few weeks.”
College President Bob Knight emailed staff on June 4 with additional information regarding potential cuts, and the college’s contingency plans regarding the state legislature.
The college plans to stay open during Summer quarter, even if the state does not pass a 2015-16 budget in time. “I decided that we will stay open,” Knight said. “We will use local tuition and fees – and even fund balance if necessary – to cover operating expenses if there is not an approved budget by June 30.”
Regarding potential cuts, Knight has made clear his philosophy on the process. “I have asked that they prioritize protecting people first and that they be guided by the new Strategic Plan’s focus on student learning.”
Knight also highlighted areas where the college will begin to save money:
- Suspending the hiring of an associate vice president for Human Resources. HR will report to vice president of administrative services Bob Williamson.
- All hiring will require presidential approval.
- All IT equipment purchases will require the approval of the appropriate Executive Council member.
- Some empty positions will be left vacant.
- In a follow up email, director of facilities Tim Petta noted ways in which facilities will be working to cut costs.
- All offices will be cleaned on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.
- There will be no night custodial service at the CTC building.
- The evening custodial crew at the main campus will now start at 4 p.m. rather than 6 p.m., and will leave at 1 a.m. rather than 2:30 a.m.
This will allow building utilities to be shut down one and 1 1/2 hours earlier each night.
- There will only be a skeleton crew on campus for a few hours during the day to maintain public space and respond to custodial requests.