UCC Mainstream Online

Sustaining UCC’s financial budget plan

kenteegardin, Flickr
Enrollment drops are affecting revenue for the 2015-17 UCC budget. 50 percent of community college funding is from student tuition, according to state agencies.

Douglas County alone lost about 6,000 jobs since the 2007 recession, and the district has been clawing its way back, gaining only a little over 1,000 of those lost jobs in 2014, according to the State of Oregon Employment Department. Those unemployment rates can directly relate to college funding.

Because of fewer jobs in Douglas County, younger families have moved out of the area. “The decline in enrollment is the biggest issue UCC has,” Rebecca Redell, UCC’s chief financial advisor, said; “unfortunately middle age folks with students are moving out and retirees are moving in. So we’ve lost some student population because of that.”

The enrollment decline has contributed to budget issues. The student tuition and fees cover nearly 50 percent of funding for Oregon’s community colleges, according to Community Colleges and Workforce Development. With fewer students attending, the college is losing substantial funding.

College funding, which is decided by a two year (biennium) budget plan from the school, requires a balanced budget which must be presented on May 13 during a budget committee meeting.

“The balancing is done in a variety of ways; there are cuts in requests for materials and supplies, the scholarship program and staffing. That’s in the proposed budget at this point. We present a balanced budget, and the external budget committee, if they approve it, will go to our board in June, and the board will adopt a budget that will take effect starting in July,” Redell said.

Based on this year’s current budget, UCC will be $400,000 in the red unless cuts are made. This number was dropped significantly from a previous $1 million deficit by cutting supplies and the scholarship program. Although there is an improvement, UCC is still in the negative end of the spectrum compared to other colleges in the state.

Rumors are also circulating about cutting the culinary arts program and some aspects of the school cafeteria. Community relations at UCC could not confirm nor deny this supposition at this time.

Although the state’s general support for community colleges may increase to $535 or $550 million for 2015-17 from $465 million allocated in 2013-15, this increase won’t substantially help UCC, according to Redell.

“The funding at the overall level is increasing, but UCC isn’t receiving any more money because we had huge declines in enrollment the last two years. Our county has led the recession ups and downs as far as the whole state is concerned, so we had really huge increases in enrollment and really huge decreases in enrollment, and that happened to us faster than it happened anywhere else for the most part,” Redell said.

The UCC board is hoping the state will allocate $535 million or more for the 2015-17 biennium for colleges in order to help with UCC’s shortfall. “There is some possibility for more, but it depends on the May revenue forecast,” Redell said.

Buildings, such as the SOWI building and the new Nurse Health and Science building, did not affect the budget UCC has for this year. “The new Health Nurse and Science building does not impact our total general fund yet. All of that money is capital construction money which is a different pot of money as far as the state is concerned, so at this point it hasn’t affected our general fund. Now with that being said, when it opens UCC is going to need a little bit more staff to run it, and that’s going to be a little bit of an impact on our utilities,” Redell said.

Redell understands the concerns about how budget cuts may affect UCC students, “All of our hopes are that it doesn’t impact them greatly, and I’m hopeful that we don’t have to cut any more than what is already proposed in the budget. A lot is going to depend on the enrollment at other colleges, and there are a lot of other variables we don’t know.”

According to state budget planners, “We are still far short for being able to make game-changing investments in education and to significantly boost opportunities for Oregon families. We are far short of being able to build the reserves needed to sustain our state budget during tough economic times that will come in the future.” The statement is from the state’s Co-Chairs budget Framework, a description of the state’s budget plans for the 2015-17 biennium. Committee members come together and list priorities which could be funded if additional revenue becomes available in the future.

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission has offered solutions to prevent schools from losing more money than they gain: freezing staff salaries and cutting small programs.

UCC’s own board is thinking of having furlough days, which will allow the college to have their staff and faculty off a certain number of days without pay and then come back to work. This will reduce payroll without reducing the number of employees. The budget cuts proposed in the 2015-17 school year will not only impact and affect the UCC students but also the faculty and staff.

The News Review reported 14.5 full-time equivalency faculty positions being cut. But on Tuesday, the Board of Trustees voted 4-2 against cutting these full time jobs.