While there may still be a bit of shouting left to do, the Legislature appears to have settled on the basics of budget for the next two years, giving some direction to Shoreline Community College officials.
“It looks like the reductions are in the range we’ve been planning for,” Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell said Monday, April 27, 2009, just hours after lawmakers gaveled the regular legislative session to a close. “We’ll need to have some time to look at the specifics of the budget to better understand how the college should proceed.”
Although Gov. Chris Gregoire is contemplating calling a special legislative session to pass bills she says are necessary to implement the budget, a report from the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) says the budget includes:
- A $164 million biennial cut - or 10.7 percent - which includes reductions the system already took this year, with additional cuts spread evenly over two years.
- Tuition increases limited to 7 percent in the first year and another 7 percent in the second year for resident undergraduates (14 percent per year for applied baccalaureate program upper division courses).
- With tuition yields added back, the net biennial cut for the system is calculated at 7.6 percent.
- $3.5 million for the Student Achievement Initiative.
- $2.25 million for on-line distance learning and open courseware technology.
- $1.5 million for the Hospital Employee Education Training (HEET) grants.
- Up to $4 million in federal stimulus funds to provide workforce training related to weatherization and energy.
- State Need Grant funding increased commensurate with tuition increases with the 70 percent of median family income threshold for eligibility remaining.
Both Campbell and SBCTC deputy executive director Chris Reykdal have noted that there are still variables that must be analyzed before all impacts of the budget are fully understood.
“We’re going to have transitional costs, as we implement changes required by the budget cuts we made this year,” Campbell said. “We also need to better understand where the Legislature used federal stimulus money.” Money in the federal economic stimulus package is generally targeted to be spent within two years. Campbell cautioned that the college should consider planning now for the time when those monies go away.
Reykdal has told all college officials that final budget numbers for individual colleges will likely fluctuate somewhat as employee benefit calculations are done and applied.
Another key variable is enrollment. The 7 percent tuition increase for each year is intended to offset some of the budget cuts, but Campbell and others worry that higher costs will filter out some students, despite increases to state and federal aid programs. Higher percentage increases – 14 percent for each year - for the four-year schools, however, could push some of those students to community and technical colleges. And, while Shoreline has seen increased enrollment this school year - an expected trend as the economy soured - should the economic climate warm, that upward trend-line could flatten.
“Our current thinking is to budget flat enrollment,” Campbell said. “It’s conservative and if things are better, we’ll be in a good position.”