Financial Heartache

South Puget Sound Community College could face a $2.6 million budget cut in the next two years after the Washington State Senate proposed heavy budget cuts to the community and technical college system.

The proposal was made during a 30-day special legislative session that began April 26 in which lawmakers continue to negotiate the 2011-2013 operating budget.

Proposals have been made by both the House and the Senate, and must be resolved before passing into law. Leadership must resolve their $250 million difference within the 30 day session.

The House and Senate disagree on several issues but “both proposals involve significant cuts for higher education,” said college President Gerald Pumphrey.

Future SPSCC students face a 12 percent tuition increase and a 180-course section decrease. A course section is a particular offering of a class like 9 a.m. chemistry 101 or 1:15 p.m. Spanish II. The classes with a trend of low enrollment were the first to go in last year’s removal of 60 course sections. A portion of the 180 cut sections next year won’t come back at all.

The courses that have historically low enrollment aren’t likely to be offered next year at all, according to Dorna Bullpitt, vice president of instruction. Examples of full cut courses include “some language classes, advanced art studio classes, and physical education classes,” said Bullpitt.

In 2010-2011, SPSCC offered 38 sections of art classes, according to art professor Jane Stone. Based on a 12 percent budget reduction, Stone said, five fewer art classes will be provided for school year 2011-2012. The Washington State Senate proposed a 15.5 percent budget reduction to community and technical colleges. This would result in an even greater number of cut courses.

“Several art courses will be offered just once a year,” said Stone.

Due to the limited number of art courses, students should plan their AA carefully, said Stone. Transfer students majoring in art may also struggle to meet the first- and second-year course requirements.

“The situation is being repeated throughout the college,” said Stone.

Another impacted department is music. Last year’s guitar instructor resigned, a process which downsized the music program.

“The guitar class was very popular and always full,” said McNamara. “Students who want to study guitar will have to wait until the financial situation gets better.”

McNamara feels that, should it suffer further cuts, the music program would exist in name only, becoming “not viable.”

SPSCC’s financial heartache doesn’t only affect the students. A decrease in course sections also means a decrease in adjunct faculty.

“This represents a significant loss of their families’ incomes,” said Stone.

SPSCC President Pumphrey hopes the majority of part-time faculty can continue teaching but we “won’t know until we get through the first week of registration.”

Excess Enrollment
The approximately $2.6 million operating budget cut, planned by the state Senate, is SPSCC’s least generous proposal of the three in the system. The state House of Representatives’ proposed budget would lead to roughly $1.9 million cut from SPSCC. College officials searched the campus for ideas on how to handle the massive cuts. The deans and vice presidents collaborated to discuss the future of SPSCC.

One leading idea is to include “excess enrollment courses,” which would alleviate some of the pressure SPSCC receives from over-enrollment.

This year, SPSCC handled an over-enrollment of 600 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. This was less of a problem for the college, as funding for these extra students was contained within the 2010-2011 operating budget. Excess enrollment classes will only partially replace the lost funding needed to serve as many students in the upcoming year.

There will be fewer students served next year, according to Pumphrey, but he believes a significant portion will be added back to enrollment.

Full waitlists will have the power to create another course section. Once a waitlist reaches the courses’ capacity waitlisted students will be notified of the opening course. If the student is still interested they must register within 24 hours of the courses’ opening. Students will be allowed to occupy five waitlists.

According to Bullpitt, the excess enrollment courses will consist of required courses such as Accounting, Astronomy, Criminal Justice, English (both 101 and 102), Environment Science, Multicultural classes, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish, Economics, Geology, History, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Mathematics and Medical Assisting. The courses provided by Bullpitt consist only of the subjects, not the specific curricular sections.

Teachers will be told which courses are for excess enrollment. Students will only discover the excess enrollment courses as they open, said Bullpitt.