On Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert told staff and faculty that, depending on the depth of the coming state budget chasm, the college just might be able to bridge the gap.
One week later, on Thursday, Sept. 22, Gov. Chris Gregoire gave her take on what the college and the rest of the state is facing and how she wants to find a solution.
“This morning, I announced a special session to convene November 28 to bring the Legislature back to do the job,” Gregoire wrote in a memo to all state employees. “As you know, last week’s forecast dropped our revenues by $1.4 billion. I’ve started preparing for $2 billion in cuts to assure that we have a reserve …”
In August, Gregoire warned of pending cuts in the 5- and 10-percent range and asked state agencies to detail how such cuts would impact services.
Also on Sept. 22, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges submitted those impacts for the entire system to the state Office of Financial Management. In that memo, Denise Graham, deputy director, finance, wrote:
The conclusions of the analysis of the impacts of additional 10 percent budget reductions:
· Additional budget reductions will mean fewer student served and fewer degrees and certificates.
· The funding model for community and technical colleges has shifted over the last three years away from being largely state supported to being much more dependent on tuition revenues.
· This shift has had two primary impacts on college mission: Colleges must increasingly rely on tuition-paying students, to the detriment of ABE programs. Additionally, the decrease in available state funding to support high-cost workforce programs has meant that colleges must scrutinize the financial feasibility of offering these programs, resulting in the elimination of many otherwise viable workforce programs.
· The greater reliance on tuition has meant large tuition increases for students, resulting in students being saddled with more student load debt. It could also result in fewer low- and middle-income students attending college.
· In short, the state’s budget crisis is changing who the colleges serve and how they serve them. The mix of mission areas is shifting out of financial necessity. The State Board and the college presidents will be considering options and strategies for preserving key college system mission areas as the cut levels we face become clearer.
In his Sept. 15 comments, Lambert said a 10 percent state cut might equate to about $1.5 million for Shoreline. “If it is 10 percent, we might squeak through. If it is more, we may be looking at cuts,” Lambert said at the time.
Currently in China for meetings with potential college partners, Lambert is staying informed of the state budget situation.
“We knew this was coming, we just didn’t know the details,” Lambert wrote from China. “While today’s news gives us more information, we don’t yet know exactly what this will mean for the college.”
The numbers used by Gregoire could straddle the point identified by Lambert at which the college may be forced to make cuts. “We don’t know what level Olympia will decide on and we don’t know how they will choose to apply the reductions,” he said. Gregoire has said across-the-board cuts are not an option.
In his Sept. 15 address, Lambert outlined the idea that the college might be able to use reserves for a temporary bridge while strategic initiatives intended to reduce the dependence on state funding take hold and grow.
“This just reinforces the need to move ahead on internationalizing the college, expanding our virtual college and developing partnerships,” he said.