‘Everything’s on the table’
Period of budget reductions takes toll on campus morale
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012 15:03
There is no one way to describe the state’s economic situation or its impact on morale at Contra Costa College.
Faculty members are frustrated, managers are overwhelmed and most students say it just plain sucks.
“This semester, I signed up late and couldn’t get in the (math and business) classes I wanted,” business major Isamu Scott said while sitting against the back wall of AA-118 before his Math 118 class Monday.
WebAdvisor shows 44 students enrolled in the class, which has a maximum of 40.
“It sucks,” he said with the hood of his gray sweatshirt pulled over his short black hair. “You’re in doubt the whole time. You don’t know how long you’ll be here. You don’t know if you’ll get the things you need. It sucks.”
The 2011-12 academic year is the fourth straight year of budget cuts to CCC, its district and all of the 112 California community colleges, which serve 2.5 million students each year.
Further cuts are planned.
To close a $21.3 million districtwide funding shortage this year, 68 classified staff positions were eliminated or redefined starting July 1, 2011.
About $4 million of CCC’s nearly $25 million operating budget for the 2011-12 academic year was cut at the same time, but additional cuts followed. Two mid-year trigger cuts and a deficit dropped on the community college system resulted in an additional $840,000 deficit funding for the college in 2011-12, CCC Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong said.
She said the trigger cuts, caused by a statewide revenue shortfall mostly from student enrollment fees and property taxes not reaching projections, pushed a $120,000 deficit to $450,000 for the college. When the state announced an additional $149 million shortage Feb. 21, Magalong said it “ramped up” the deficit, almost doubling it to $840,000 at CCC.
“It’s very difficult to keep having to manage these cuts,” she said. “It’s so overwhelming to me.”
The next year, 2012-13, will be the fifth consecutive year of cuts. In each of those years, the state Chancellor’s Office has required colleges to budget for fewer students.
The budget reductions make all programs and services vulnerable to cuts.
“Particularly in this budget climate, everything’s on the table,” CCC Interim Vice President Donna Floyd said.
Dan Henry, CCC interim president, said in 2011-12 the college has more than 6,000 Full-Time Equivalent Students and needs to get that number down to 5,475 for 2012-13.
Henry said that goal is a hedge position resting between two projections reliant upon the outcome of November’s statewide tax measures. If the tax initiatives pass, an FTES goal of 5,585 will be adopted, but if voted down, CCC would have to readjust for a goal of 5,274.
FTES, calculated by taking the total number of course units in which all students at the college are enrolled and dividing that number by 12, is the number of units required of a full-time student. FTES is how the state allocates funds for community colleges.
Henry said at least $1 to $1.5 million would be taken out of the operating budget for the next academic year and the college’s budget for serving students will be cut further.
“This many years of significant cuts is unprecedented in my career that’s pushing 40 years,” said Henry, 63, who started teaching in the district in 1973 as a math professor at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg. “We’ve had difficult times before, but never year-after-year cuts.
“It’s really taking a toll on the college,” he said.
To meet that budget in the fall 2012 semester, the college will offer 60 fewer course sections, Dr. Floyd said.
And the cuts will continue until at least 2013-14, regardless of whether the tax measures pass in November.
The only thing that has not been reduced is the cost of student fees, which will increase in the summer by $10, costing students $46 per unit. Last year’s $10 increase was enacted to increase state revenues, but instead created $107 million of the surprise $149 million revenue shortage because more students became eligible for Board of Governors fee waivers.
The number of courses offered has decreased and staffing was reduced this year to the minimum needed to keep the college running.
“It is painful not only for staff, but for students,” district Director of Communications Tim Leong said. “(There will be) either (fewer) courses or less services or a combination of both.
“I wish I could give you some positive spin on it,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re faced with some difficult budget decisions.”
This spring, CCC offers 43 sections fewer than in the spring 2011 semester, a 5.8 percent decrease, according to the Office of District Research.
Those records also show a 4.7 percent decrease in FTES at CCC from last spring.