Proposed budget will cut WSCC funding

MARIETTA – Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposed state budget plan could have sweeping effects for Washington State Community College’s Post Secondary Enrollment Option program, a program that allows students to enroll in college classes while still in high school.

Part of the proposal, dubbed the College Credit Plus program, would take a sizable chunk out of the reimbursement the college receives for high school students’ tuition, said Chief Financial Officer Jess Raines during the WSCC board of trustees regular meeting Monday.

“We received an 80 percent reimbursement before. Under the new plan, we would be reimbursed for 50 percent of the average tuition rate for the average community college,” said Raines.

Because Washington State’s tuition is already close to the state average for community college, it would mean the college is receiving 30 percent less funding through PSEO tuition reimbursement, he said.

“Thirty percent could be a quarter of a million bucks,” pointed out trustee Randy Barengo.

The change is just one of many concerns those at the college have about the state budget and other pieces of state and national legislation, said President Bradley Ebersole.

“There’s been a flurry of activity all of the sudden from the government on the national level and also on the state level,” he said.

Regardless of how the proposed budget could affect PSEO, it is already time to start recruiting high school students for the fall semester, said Raines.

“We really can’t hold off on that process,” he said.

In addition to the state budget, the college will also be watching closely to see what is done nationally with the Federal Pell Grant Program, said Emily Schuck, WSCC director of financial aid.

“The Pell grant program is going really well. Last year, they put in the lifetime Pell limit which affected about 100 students,” she said.

The changes capped Pell Grant availability at six years per student, making fewer students eligible for the grants, but slightly increasing the amount of funding available to students with the greatest need, she said. However, there are still concerns about the long-term financial solubility of the program, and more reform could be possible, said Schuck.

Additionally the Workforce Investment Act is set to be reauthorized for the first time since being enacted in 1998, said Schuck. The act helps fund workforce education programs, she said.

At its high point 160 students were coming through Washington State as part of the program. Now it is used by less than 40, said Schuck.

To address these issues and how they will affect community colleges, a handful of campus visits have been scheduled with state and national representatives, she said.

Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, was on campus last week and Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta and Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, are scheduled to be on campus in the next two weeks, she said.