Gregoire proposes new budget cuts

Gov. Christine Gregoire released a letter to the Washington state Legislature that outlined a list of potential budget cuts likely to affect students, including an overall higher education budget reduction of 15 percent. South Puget Sound Community College President Gerald Pumphrey said that while the current school year will not be affected, a 15 percent reduction will mean cutting a little over $2 million from SPSCC.

“The September revenue forecast has forced another major overhaul of the state operating budget, this time to accommodate a drop of nearly $1.4 billion,” said Gregoire during a press release on Oct. 27.

Gregoire will propose for the November budget that the state eliminate the Basic Health Plan and drastically drop the numbers of those covered under the state’s Disability Lifeline along with alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs.

“The alternatives we have identified are very difficult and will undoubtedly cause concern across the state. They cause me concern,” said Gregoire.

“I have looked at potential service reductions and eliminations that, quite frankly, would never have been considered just a few years ago,” she said, referring to when the recession first hit in 2007.

Since the recession, SPSCC has cut the school’s budget along with Smarthinking and Vista Service online tutoring services.

A decrease in library hours is another result of budget cuts. For instance, the library is no longer open on Saturday’s. This is an issue for students who need the resources of the library in order to complete their school work.

The change that affects students most is the decrease in the amount of courses and sections available to students during registration. The decline in course offerings makes it difficult for new and current students to secure the classes they require for graduation.

Amanda Kalin, an SPSCC student working towards an international intercultural degree, is applying for The Evergreen State College due to unappealing classes. The classes she wants to take are either not available, only available online, which lack “the personal feeling,” or happen at the same time making it difficult to choose between them.

“I have 30 credits left for my degree, but education is a priority for me and I would like to take classes I feel would enrich my life. For me, if it’s not something I’m interested in, I’m not going to be enthusiastic,” said Kalin.

On Nov. 2, SPSCC hosted a meeting to discuss the financial crisis with the House Higher Education Committee. The goal of the meeting was to discuss potential solutions to the decreased budget.
Among the list are shortening the time of completion of programs on campus, the diversity of online degree options, and standardizing admission and enrollment processes.

The decline of students getting college degrees is also a main concern for the future of Washington state.

Increasing student retention is a primary goal for SPSCC and other Washington state community and technical colleges.

The House Higher Education meeting is one in a series of several conversations that will take place until early 2012.