Broad numbers comparing education-delivery costs at Shoreline Community College with those at three similarly sized Puget Sound-area schools indicate SCC may be more frugal in some areas and less so in others.
Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell and Special Assistant to the President for Budget and Internal Control Holly Woodmansee presented the numbers at the Dec. 3, 2008 regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. The numbers compared Shoreline with Edmonds, Everett and Green River community colleges. Also included were averages for the three comparison schools and the state system averages. All the numbers were for the 2006-07 fiscal year.
Woodmansee urged caution in depending too much on the numbers that look at expenses in six broad areas. “We don’t know all the variables,” Woodmansee said, referring to differences in the way schools may categorize some expenses. “Not apples and apples, it may be oranges or pears.”
Campbell added: “We’re not prepared to rely wholly on these numbers when making budget decisions.” Still, Woodmansee said, the information is a starting point in understanding and comparing basic cost levels.
SCC appears to spend 29-37 percent more than the system and comparison group on student services. At the same time, SCC’s costs in the institutional support category were 13-18 percent less than the system and comparison group. Instruction related costs were relatively on par with the system and schools’ numbers.
Comparing total faculty costs, SCC’s numbers look to be about 14 percent above the comparison schools. Applying those costs to student numbers, SCC is about 10 percent above the other schools’ average.
The same comparison of total classified employee cost shows Shoreline 14 below the other schools and 8 percent below when applied to number of students served.
Campbell pointed out an anomaly in the administration cost numbers. While average cost per administrative position was higher by 15 percent, the cost per student FTE was lower by more than a third. The difference, Campbell said, indicates that the other schools have more administrative positions per student FTE.
“Are these the right comparisons? We don’t know that and we can’t really go forward without knowing,” Campbell said. “We do know that Shoreline spent about $1.4 million more to serve the same number of students (as the comparison schools).”
Trustees said they appreciated seeing the numbers and offered support for Shoreline programs and employees.
“I know we have some very expensive professional-technical programs,” Board chair Shoubee Liaw said. “But, we also need to look at (the economic benefit).”
The newest trustee, Jerry Smith, asked a rhetorical question. “Do you really want the lowest priced person you can get, the lowest priced person teaching you?” Smith said. “There’s a case to be made (against mediocrity) but you have to make the case.”
Later in the meeting, SCC President Lee Lambert listed next steps for budget-related issues anticipated in the coming week.
Lambert said he’ll meet with student government leaders on Friday, Dec. 5, to discuss the implications of potential cuts. On Monday, Dec. 8, an all-campus meeting is scheduled for 12:30-2 p.m. in the PUB Main Dining Room. However, Lambert said he’ll make his comments and then leave early for a meeting with the so-called Sno-King presidents (Renton, Bellevue Lake Washington, Cascadia, Edmonds, Everett and Shoreline). Also next week, Lambert said he and Board chair Liaw will travel to Olympia to meet with SBCTC Executive Director Charlie Earl. And, all presidents are schedule to convene on Dec. 12, he said.
Liaw said she’s looking forward to the meeting with Earl.
“We’re not going there with our hands out, a tin cup,” Liaw said. “One word I hear from Olympia is ‘Bold,’ have some bold ideas. When Lee and I go to see Charlie, we’re going with bold ideas. So the Governor sits back and says, ‘Shoreline has put their heads together to find good, bold ideas.”