Budget falls, tuition flies

Substantial tuition increases, larger budget reductions, and layoffs of faculty with higher job security may be forthcoming for South Puget Sound Community College as the Board of Trustees finds ways to meet state funding cutbacks.

SPSCC College President Gerald Pumphrey has seen budget reductions estimated anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. According to Pumphrey, these estimates were a result of Governor Gregoire’s request for state agencies and instructions to construct planning budgets around a 10 percent reduction.

“That was before the September revenue forecast when they found out things were going to be worse,” said Pumphrey.

A 30 percent reduction was the high estimate that he has heard, he said.

In an email sent by Pumphrey to all staff and faculty he explained that while it is likely that raising revenues will be discussed to serve as a tool to soften budget cuts, a referendum will need to be sent to voters first.

For the 2011-2012 school year, tuition has gone up an average of 12 percent at community and technical colleges in Washington. According to Pumphrey, tuition prices are supposed to jump another 12 percent next year.

There is an increase in enrollment throughout community and technical colleges in the state in order for students to reduce the cost of their education, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers’ President Paul Lingenfelter, as quoted in an article in The Washington Post.

According to the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, tuition for a full-time student annually will be $35 hundred, rather than $31 hundred.

Although an average 12 percent hike in tuition is a significant amount, the State Board explained they are sympathetic to students’ hardship but see no other choice.

“While we understand the need to raise tuition given the dire fiscal situation we find ourselves in, we are concerned about what this increase means for students,” said Sharon Fairchild, soon-to-be SBCTC board member.

Pumphrey also understands the impact of higher tuition on students. “You would have to work three times the number of hours at a minimum wage job to pay tuition at a community college than I did,” he said.

When Pumphrey was in college tuition was $75 per semester and minimum wage was $1.15 an hour.

According to Pumphrey, “In constant dollars, minimum wage still has about the same buying power. Tuition is what has changed. “

SPSCC student Jennifer Woodruff is uneasy about her financial situation this year in terms of paying for tuition. Last year the majority of her money earned at her job went straight to tuition. This year financial aid only granted her $400 for three quarters which she has only been able to apply to textbooks. Her grandmother agreed to pay for her tuition.

Jessica Carsoln, another SPSCC student, highly recommends searching for scholarship opportunities. Scholarship money has been and will continue to be very beneficial to lightening her tuition burden this year.

Former Running Start student Jasmin Zamora realizes that her new responsibility of paying for tuition is “kind of expensive.” Currently she is not working and is supported by her parents when paying for tuition without any financial aid.

A financial emergency was declared by the SBCTC at the September meeting. The declaration gives community and technical colleges the authority to accelerate the process of layoffs of tenured and tenure-track faculty.

According to the SBCTC’s Communications and Outreach Associate Sherry Nelson it is up to each college’s board of trustees whether or not they will use this new authority.

Tenured faculties have a greater amount of job security than other faculty at a college. In effect, the state of emergency law voids this increased amount of job security.

Under regular circumstances, tenured faculty can appeal for a variety of reasons with an unrestricted time limit, said Nelson.

Although Pumphrey has never gone through the procedures of firing a tenured employee, he said the accelerated process shortens the preparation for the layoffs as well as the number of hearings.

There are 10 meetings a year with the SPSCC Board of Trustees, said Pumphrey. So far they have not discussed the financial emergency law at any meetings. This is due to a lack of budget reform strategy developed so far.

Therefore the authority to expedite the layoff process of tenured faculty enacted by the law RCW 28B.50.873 is not as of now in place at SPSCC. The law is only applied when a state of emergency has been declared.