The “People’s College” has begun to turn away The People, and the worst, warn educational leaders, is yet to come.
Last year more than 200,000 California students lost access to classes and current estimates show an additional 670,000 students seeking a community college education will be turned away. Governor Jerry Brown said the state economy is beginning to recover, but not before drastic cuts in education and health services. Even if his proposed tax initiative passes in November, it will do little to close the $16 billion deficit California faces July 1.
Come summer Southwestern College will once again feel the heat as California community colleges have their budgets slashed to help close the state budget deficit. A scramble to close a $5 million gap is being addressed right now and another $3 – $6 million looking ahead with gloomy FY 2013-14 fiscal year predictions. This comes on the heels of close to $8.1 million cut last year.
Students are facing rising fees and a 30 percent reduction of college Cal Grant recipients. Cuts to CalWORKS and childcare burst the pipeline for childcare workers in the state, closing an estimated 98 community college campus childcare centers. As outlined by Brown, new work participation requirements could make it nearly impossible for low-income students to gain access to community college resources.
Half of the $5 million SWC deficit will be paid with $1 million from reserves, $1 million from Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES) funding cuts by the state and $500,000 in cuts to operating budgets (administrative and academic).
If Brown’s tax initiative on the November ballot fails, SWC’s budget committee is scheduling fewer classes for fall 2012.
Randy Beach, SWC Academic Senate President Elect, said this forward thinking is beneficial because if the initiative fails, class cuts are already in place.
“Students can plan better, faculty can be hired and student services can better prepare for the projected student load,” he said.
Student fees will increase to $46 a unit for the summer semester, which has been severely reduced. Beach said no other fee increases are currently being considered at this time at the state level. Changes to the Board of Governors (BOGW) fee waiver include a 110 unit cap and students will be required to maintain satisfactory academic standards. SWC students are ineligible for BOG after completion of 100 units.
Requirements for Cal Grants may increase the minimum GPA to qualify to 2.75, up from the current 2.0, though Cal Grant changes are not expected to pass, said Patti Larkin, SWC Director of Financial Aid.
Larkin said 13,507 SWC students currently receive BOGW with changes affecting around 100 students. Changes to Cal Grant could affect about 920 students, she said.
“It’s not so much as to make students leave as soon as possible as it is to encourage them to progress,” said Larkin. “It’s important for students to progress because in the case of Pell Grants you don’t want to spend a lot of time using that money.”
Salary cuts will likely go into effect in FY 2012-13 after faculty and employees voted narrowly to approve a five percent pay cut negotiated by administration and labor groups on campus.
Bruce MacNintch, president of the California School Employees Association, said the only thing left is salaries. Current negotiations revolve on distribution of cuts, an increase in employee contributions to health and welfare benefits, furloughs and the possibility of freezing step increases, he said.
“All the groups have made a commitment that if it’s a choice between jobs and salary, we’ll look at salary,” said MacNintch. “We’re opposed to job losses, but we don’t know how severe future cuts will be.”
The pay reduction is expected to generate $3.1 million.
Federal financial aid changes take effect July 1. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) applicants will no longer submit a copy of their taxes with their application. Tax information will be sent directly from the Internal Revenue Service. Pell Grants recipients are reduced from 18 semesters of financial aid to 12, giving students less time to pursue educational goals. A six-month grace period of no interest is being eliminated on federal student loans and interest rates, and future loans will double unless Congress extends the 2007 law keeping current interest rates.
Last semester 39 employees took part in the Supplemental Early Retirement Package (SERP) that saved SWC about $1.7 million last year. SERP is not a viable option to finding the money needed this year, said Andy MacNeill, budget committee co-chair.
He said it has been determined that there will be no SERP for the 2011-12 budget year and there is no commitment to offer SERP next year.
“You can’t offer it every year as you lose too much of your work force,” said MacNeill. “There also comes a point where you just can’t save any more money.”
Summer 2013 is expected to look similar to summer 2012 with the main campus, for the most part, closed to students. Fall takes the majority of funding with 54 percent FTES allocated, while spring only gets 46 percent and summer gets what little remains to fund programs that require summer courses.