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Budget restores funding, classes

Proposal may freeze $46 per unit tuition fee

By Cody McFarland, associate editor
On February 14, 2014

Last month Gov. Jerry Brown gave his budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year, in which he proposed an increase of close to $1 billion for community colleges throughout the state.
For the Contra Costa Community College District, that means there exists the potential to earn an additional 850 Full-Time Equivalent Students, which translates to $4 million. The proposal also details a 0.86 percent cost of living adjustment, meaning an additional $1.2 million for the district.
If approved by the Legislature, the proposal will freeze fees at $46 per unit and allow colleges to add 3 percent more students to their rolls.
Recognized as a restoration of access, the increase of funding would allow for more students to enroll in classes, more classes to be added, and for more counselors to assist as many students possible in achieving their academic goals and transferring.
Funding for community colleges is based on FTES. Colleges receive state funding per FTES, or for every 15 units being taken by students.
And the district would love to earn the additional FTES included in the governor's proposal, despite one problem.
"The students have to be here. The district has seen a decline in enrollment," President Denise Noldon said - "both at CCC and DVC this year."
Due to that decline in enrollment, it appears as if CCC will not meet its FTES goal for fiscal year 2013-14, falling more than 200 FTES short, CCC Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong said.
The decline has had Magalong and other CCC administrators asking themselves, "If we cannot make our goal this year, how are we going to meet the goal, plus the proposal's additions, in the next year?"
District Chief Financial Officer Jonah Nicholas said, "If the FTES were divided proportionally according to college size, the breakdown would be 167 for CCC, 451 for DVC and 232 for LMC. Dividing the FTES proportionally by size is not always what happens. The Chancellor's Cabinet, which includes the college presidents, discusses how the division of FTES will be done."
As of right now, the breakdown of FTES between the three sister colleges is uncertain.
"Yes, there is more money on the table. But we have to earn it," Magalong said. "We have to grow. Those students must come through our doors first before we are able to earn those dollars."
The need for increased enrollment is challenged, however, by an economic upturn that has opened up the job market and sent students back to work, as well as the limited daytime classroom space at CCC during the construction of its new Campus Center.
The college is using community outreach to attract more students.
"We want to touch students earlier. We have to," Vicki Ferguson, dean of student services, said. "We are working on our end to revamp the services we provide. If (students) are not coming to us, then we're coming to them."
Ferguson said that the college began student recruitment efforts in November by going to local high schools and mailing newsletters and spring course schedules to nearby residences. So far this semester, counselors have opened their doors early to meet more students' needs as soon as possible, she said.
"Student Services utilizes counselors to find out what students are asking for," Ferguson said.
Computer science major David Ahmad said that CCC should add more physics and higher level mathematics courses, as it is stressful for many engineering and science majors to get their requirements for transfer in a timely manner.
"There is only one Intro to Physics class offered every semester that only lets 25 students register," Ahmad said. "And the second part to that class is only offered once a year. If there were more physics and (higher level math classes) available, I would have transferred by now."
The proposed increase in funding allows colleges statewide to open their doors to more students and create more sections. Whether that entails more core classes or more variety in certain subjects is yet to be determined.
According to Dr. Noldon, classes that will end up seeing this restoration of access will likely be those with full waitlists, the courses for which there is the most demand.
Noldon and Magalong both expect the budget to be approved on time, by July 1, 2014, keeping in mind that this is only a proposal and subject to change.
"The governor's proposal is only the first look at the potential budget for 2014-15," Nicholas said. "The Legislature still needs to weigh in. The May Revision provides a much clearer picture with more details. Point is, things are almost certain to change."

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