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* SCC Trustees approve budget for 2011-12

RobinAranas.jpg

SCC photo

Student Body President Robin Aranas (with plaque) is honored for his service by the Shoreline Community College Board of Trustees (from left) Shoubee Liaw, Roger Olstad, Jerry Smith, Gidget Terpstra and Phil Barrett.

Shoreline Community College will go into the next year with less money coming from the state, more money coming from students and fewer employees.

“You can see that over the past three years, the percentage of the college budget from the state allocation is getting smaller while the percentage covered by student tuition and fees is getting larger,” said Daryl Campbell, Vice President for Administrative Services. Campbell was speaking to the college Board of Trustees at the June 22 regular meeting. The trustees approved the overall budget of $37.8 million, but not unanimously and even some of the yes votes weren’t happy about it.

The budget includes a 12 percent average tuition increase, an increase set by the state Legislature in the recent special session and approved by Gov. Chris Gregoire. That reality didn’t assuage Shoreline Trustee Shoubee Liaw’s concerns over piling additional financial burdens on students.

“Can the trustees vote to approve something less than 12 percent,” Liaw asked somewhat rhetorically. “I think it is just morally wrong. We’re committing (students) to debt. We’re beating them with a stick and then taking their blood.”

Board Chair Jerry Smith said he would reluctantly vote for the tuition increase included in the budget, but agreed with Liaw.

“Increasing tuition at a place like the University of Washington is one thing, but raising tuition at a community college is way worse,” Smith said. “The community college system is at the forefront of the national agenda right now. To raise tuition on community college students is very objectionable to me.”

When it came time to vote, Liaw was the lone holdout, with Smith praising her action, saying, “I’m glad you voted against this.”

During a study session before the regular meeting, Campbell presented a chart that showed the shifting funding burden.

In 2009-10, Campbell said, the unrestricted state allocation accounted for 51 percent of the college budget. The next year that had slipped to 48 percent and for the coming year the figure is 44 percent. In contrast, the student tuition portion has risen from 34 percent, to 35 percent to 40 percent over the same three years. He also pointed out that the category called local funds, primarily student-paid fees, has also grown from 8.9 percent, to 9.5 percent to 11.3 percent of the operating budget during that same period.

And it was the issue of student fees that became the most debated topic of the meeting.

The trustees approved a plan that combines five technology-related fees currently unevenly applied to students into one college technology fee that will apply to almost all students.  The consolidated fee will be applied at $6 per credit with cap of $80 per student per quarter.

“Technology is no longer an add-on, it is a basic part of a college education,” said eLearning Director Ann Garnsey-Harter during the study session.

Student government leaders at the meeting didn’t disagree with the importance of technology, but they didn’t like the implementation of the fee.  “We think this should be put on hold until next year when students can have a complete discussion of the fee and how it should be applied, who should pay,” said Robin Aranas, President of the student body.

Paul Bartell, student Minister of Records, said that student government has enough funds to cover some of the computer-lab portion of the college expenses. “We could use student money for the labs while studying how to better understand how to more equitably pay for technology,” Bartell said. “These things need to be funded and well, but it is a lot of money and it needs to be clear how it is going to be spent.”

Garnsey-Harter said the plan for the consolidated fee does include a prioritized spending plan. In their ultimate approval, the trustees also took her suggestion that the fee be implemented for one year, include quarterly reports to the trustees on implementation and require a collaborative effort with students and staff on how to move forward next year.

The trustees also approved fee increases for the Health Informatics and Information Management program, the nursing and dental hygiene programs and the Parent-Child Center

Despite the tuition and fee increases, the approved budget is balanced with about $2.9 million less coming from state and required personnel cuts.

College officials had to start planning for reductions long before the Legislature and Governor finished their work. Initial estimates of about $3.1 million would’ve meant even deeper cuts that the actual ending number. Along with significant contractual concessions by faculty union members, some positions slated for reduction were able to be restored, but people are still losing their jobs.

The heaviest cuts are coming in full-time faculty positions, where seven positions are eliminated. Eight positions are being restored from the original cut list, there are three retirements and one temporary position is not being renewed. Vice President for Academic Affairs John Backes has said that while the full-time positions are being cut, part-time faculty will be used to fill some of the classes that would have otherwise been taught. The ability to do that to a greater degree is one of the faculty contract concessions.

Among administrators, two positions are being eliminated, three are being downgraded - including one vice president - and three are reduced in hours. For classified employees, seven vacant positions are eliminated, two retirements and one is shifted to non-state funding.

In the end, the budget was approved, but only contingent on expected action by the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. The State Board was scheduled to approve its budget, alogn with specific allocations to all 34 community and technical colleges at its meeting on June 23.

Should the State Board's actions be different than expected, a revised budget would be presented to the Shoreline trustees at their September meeting, Campbell said.

SCC/Jim Hills

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