As Community Colleges Set Budgets, Tough Decisions Must be Made

As Community Colleges Set Budgets, Tough Decisions Must be Made
The economy continues to put community colleges between a rock and a hard place, with many making drastic budget cuts and raising tuition fees.
The economic downturn has made its presence felt throughout the country, as families and businesses are forced to tighten their belts and make difficult decisions about their spending habits. Community colleges are facing the same challenges, as severe budget cuts have forced many schools to make choices in staffing, degree programs and enrollment.

As the deadlines for finalizing next year’s budgets are looming for many schools, we’ll take a look at what some of the community colleges across the nations are forced to do to make ends meet.
 
Cayuga Community College Hiking Tuition Rates
 
The Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees recently approved their latest budget for the upcoming academic year. According to a report at AuburnPub.com, the new budget will include a hefty tuition hike, as well as a request for additional funding from Cayuga County. The tuition increase will be a significant 7.25 percent jump, after tuition was not raised at all during the previous academic year. This amount translates to a $260 increase, with full-time students now paying $3,820 per year and part-time students paying $150 per credit hour. College officials are predicting that the federal Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) will cover the increase for about 75 percent of the students that are currently receiving TAP.
 
Not everyone was in favor of the tuition increase. Board president John Camardo and board secretary Jane Bowen both voted against the rate hike. Bowen told AuburnPub.com her concerns about the economy made her hesitant about raising tuition. Bowen said, “I didn’t want to increase tuition that much. I just want to keep things as low as possible.”
 
The college will also ask Cayuga County for additional funding in the amount of $2,898,345, which is an increase of 2 percent over their funding request last year. Trustee George Fearson was optimistic that the request would be granted. Fearson told AuburnPub.com, “In the past, they’ve been critical when [the college] asked for more money but didn’t raise tuition. Since we have a substantial tuition increase, it should let them know we really need the money.”
 
Despite the need to increase tuition rates and funding from the county, Cayuga Community College was able to balance the budget for the next academic year without cutting any staff positions or programs. In addition, the school will be pulling about $2 million out of their reserves for the purchase of a new campus in Fulton. The current reserve amount, which is more than $4 million, has been steadily growing over the past few years in anticipation of the Fulton project.
 
Tuition Increases not Enough for Lansing; Layoffs Imminent as Well
 
Lansing Community College is also considering an increase in tuition rates as part of their budget-balancing act for the next academic year. Unfortunately, belt tightening for Lansing won’t stop there, however. The school is also preparing to lay off a number of staff members, including five full-time and 15 part-time employees, according to a report at the Lansing State Journal. Despite urges by faculty and union members, the board unanimously voted in favor of the revised budget that included the layoffs.
 
College officials made the difficult decisions in light of a $7.4 million budget gap brought on by factors like declining property taxes and decreased state funding. Tuition increases for in-state students will be relatively moderate, at just 3.9 percent, or $3 per billing hour. However, rates for out-of-state students will go up by 12.9 percent, and international students will see a hefty 28 percent hike in their tuition rates.
 
Charifa Hejase, an LCC student from Lebanon, told the board that the rate increases could keep international students from coming to the school. Hejase said, “A lot of international students I have talked to, they came to LCC for its affordability.”
 
Frederick Community College Budgeting “Conservatively”
 
Frederick Community College in Maryland is another school pushing through a revised budget for the next academic year. According to a report in the Frederick News Post, the board of trustees at Frederick approved a “conservative” budget that did not allow for any growth in enrollment, allotting some of its surplus funds to make up for the budget shortfall that they were facing.
 
The good news for Frederick students is that tuition rates will only increase by 2.9 percent, which qualified the college for additional funding through a state grant given to schools that could keep tuition hikes under 3 percent each year.
 
Reduced Expenditures the Plan at Ohio Community Colleges
 
Ohio community colleges continue to grapple with decreases in state funding that have amounted to nearly 15 percent in cuts to the college budgets. To make up the shortfall, the North Central State College Board of Trustees has already let a number of staff members go – mostly through attrition, according to a report at WMFD. However, additional staff cuts may still need to be made. In addition, the board is considering raising tuition rates, which might amount to either a 3 percent increase for the year or a flat fee of $200 per student.
 
Budgets are tight across America, and no one is feeling the pinch as acutely as community colleges. Despite rising enrollments at many schools across the country, reduced state funding and falling property tax revenues have left many of these schools grappling with the challenging task of making ends meet when there simply isn’t enough cash to go around. From cutting staff and raising tuition to creating a leaner college environment across the board, colleges are learning a tough lesson in practical economics during these difficult financial times.

Additional Resources [+]
Hands across California: Community College Students Ban Together to Save the System
Hands across California: Community College Students Ban Together to Save the System
Community Colleges Receiving Grants to Ease the Pinch of Tighter Budgets
Community Colleges Receiving Grants to Ease the Pinch of Tighter Budgets
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Community colleges are coping with major budget deficits, and this section covers how students are being impacted. From local fundraising efforts to federal grants, we’ll explore how community colleges are staying afloat despite funding cuts and cost increases.