Budget Breakdown: programs in danger

The community and technical college board declared a financial emergency, according to press release from the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. This release has students and faculty on edge at South Puget Sound Community College.

According to the WSBCTC newsletter released in September, the last time a financial emergency was declared was in June 2009. In addition, Washington has seen an overall budget cut of $165 million. This has affected SPSCC, faculty, programs, and students.

One program that has been examined closely is Running Start. This is a program that allows high school students to enroll in college level courses tuition free. The students are able to take part in campus activities, work at the school, and plan their future outside the confines of high school.

Despite the financial hardships at SPSCC, the college has seen a large growth in the number of students enrolled, including those participating in Running Start.

While the board was quick to note the challenges of an over-saturated student population, it is also true that better trained students will be a positive contribution to employers, and therefore our economy.

Running Start gives students the ability to train in culinary arts, welding, writing, and many other fields in which they will be able to benefit the work force after graduation.

Certain changes to the Running Start program have led to hot discussions at board meetings. Recently a tuition waiver was proposed and approved for “low-income Running Start students who choose to take credits in excess of what is currently covered by the state.”

The Washington legislature “limited the reimbursement for students in the Running Start program to a combined high school and college enrollment of 120 percent of full time, which requires Running Start students to pay for college credits exceeding the new limit.”

Last Spring students were informed of budget cuts in music and art department. This has caused students to take a better look at their intended major and focus on the classes they need to fulfill requirements rather than experimenting with electives. New wait list procedures have been set in place to ensure that students are serious about their education getting first priority.

SPSCC President Gerald Pumphrey had this to say of Running Start; “it is a successful program. Our Running Start students typically earn a higher GPA than do the recent high school graduates. Our Running Start Students contribute to the campus community, often serving on the student senate, campus activities board, The Sounds Newspaper, and other student organizations. The program provides a valuable educational pathway for students whose academic and social needs are not fulfilled in the traditional high school environment. The program provides affordable access to the first two years of college for students who would otherwise face financial barriers to getting their education. The only thing I have ever seen wrong with Running Start is that we did not have it while I was in high school.”