WSCC enrollment sees 5 percent decline

MARIETTA – Washington State Community College Board of Trustees approved a 2013-14 budget based on a 5 percent enrollment decline Monday, even as school officials work toward a goal of at least maintaining the current level.

The board unanimously approved a $12.6 million budget at its monthly meeting. The total amount is down from approximately $13 million for the current fiscal year, although Treasurer Jess Raines noted it could change as the General Assembly finalizes the state’s biennial budget.

While the budget assumes a 5 percent enrollment decline, chief enrollment management officer Amanda Herb told board members that is a conservative estimate and not the number her office is working toward.

“Our enrollment goal is to stay flat,” she said.

The transition from quarters to semesters this year, along with changes in federal financial aid eligibility and an improving economy leading some potential students back to the workforce instead of the classroom, resulted in a projected $1.5 million budget deficit for 2012-13. To counter it, the college enacted mandatory furloughs, reorganization and the elimination of some positions and other spending reductions, along with the use of $300,000 from the college’s reserves.

Herb said the same factors that affected enrollment this year could impact it going forward. It’s hard to project where enrollment will go, as the semester system is still new to the school.

“It’s going to take a while for us to develop trends,” Herb said.

Raines told board members Monday the 2013-14 budget included leaving 16 positions vacant, eliminating three department chairs and reducing adjunct/overload expenses by $80,000. It also provides a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for employees, effective Jan. 1, 2014.

The implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act means people working more than 30 hours a week would have to receive health benefits, Raines said. There are employees who exceed that amount but are still considered part time.

“This budget is very tight and doesn’t have a lot of room for additional benefits,” Raines said. “Probably the biggest impact to the college is adjunct faculty. We’ll have to put a system in place that will keep them under those 30 hours a week.”

Raines noted the bookstore’s revenues have decreased with the transition from quarters to semesters, but it is still projected to take in $52,000 more than it spends next year. Meanwhile, deficits at the Evergreen Child Development Center have been reduced over the years, but it is expected to cost nearly $57,000 more than it will take in for 2013-14.

“They will essentially offset each other,” Raines said.

A “slight” increase in the fee for the center is being considered, Raines said, but he added that there are limits to what the college can do to address the deficit further. A certain teacher-to-student ratio must be maintained and raising costs too much could negatively impact the students whose children make up about 40 percent of the center’s enrollment, he said.

Also affecting the budget are state rules for the funding of students utilizing the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option. Gov. John Kasich’s proposal would have cut reimbursements, reducing the college’s revenue by an estimated $300,000. But the House version of the budget would leave it unchanged.

However, Raines noted that doesn’t mean the college can count on a six-figure boost to the budget.

“As the revenue grows, so will the expense side,” he said.