WENATCHEE — Wenatchee Valley College’s 75 non-union exempt employees — from the college president to administrative secretaries and office staff — will take 10 days of unpaid leave before the end of June to help close the gap on a projected $1 million budget deficit.
Negotiations for similar measures with union-represented employees are also in the works, part of the “meaningful cuts” that Brett Riley, vice president of administrative services, told the board of trustees on Oct. 23 are needed to make up for a drop in revenues stemming from fewer students enrolling this fall.
“All measures of savings are being considered,” WVC President Jim Richardson said in an email response to questions about WVC’s budget gap. “All non-union exempt employees will take 10 days. If all full-time employees take the unpaid leave, it would save approximately $1 million.”
Part-time faculty are not being asked to take the leave without pay.
Patrick Tracy, Association for Higher Education president, which represents 80 full-time and 12 part-time faculty union members in Wenatchee and Omak, said it’s not that simple.
Potential solutions for balancing the budget will be discussed by a Budget and Program Review Task Force, which includes administrators and faculty. It is expected to meet next week to examine factors leading up to the budget gap, the current state of the college, and then next steps, a process that might take more than one meeting.
“We are not in favor of any propositions administration has given, namely 10 furlough days and/or RIFs (Reduction in Force, aka layoffs),” he said.
The classified employee union, Washington Public Employees Association, with about 89 full-time employees, also will weigh in.
WVC’s financial concerns in the past few years have stemmed from state funding cuts or legislative delays in passing the budget.
This year, it’s all about enrollment, Richardson said, with about 49 fewer full-time equivalent students signing up for classes this fall. That’s a 2.1% drop from what was projected.
The fall quarter numbers showed 2,135 students, with 1,885 of those in Wenatchee, 28 fewer than last year, and 250 in Omak, a drop of 21 students from last year.
The largest declines are in nutrition, art, nursing and chemical dependency studies, though psychology, math and criminal justice have more students than last year. The number of students enrolling in developmental and pre-college level courses and basic skills also declined.
The overall enrollment drop follows a 10-year trend. Enrollment in career and technical programs has declined 30% since 2010.
A drop in the number of Running Start students accounts for another large piece, stemming from smaller high school class sizes. High schools also have started boosting in-house opportunities for students to earn college credits to keep state funding for those students from being transferred to the college.
“Smaller high school class sizes directly impacted Running Start,” Richardson said. “This is the first year since 1993, when the program began at WVC, that fewer students enrolled.”
Running Start is a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to attend community colleges and earn simultaneous high school and college credit at no cost. Many students graduate high school and get a college Associate of Arts degree at the same time. Nearly 90% of Running Start students attend college full time.
WVC is not alone. Walla Walla Community College is looking at a $2.7 million budget deficit due to enrollment declines. According to regional news reports, the college laid off 16 staff members and dropped its medical assistant program.
Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, facing a $1.6 million shortfall, eliminated 11 full-time positions this year.
Statewide, enrollment is down in professional-technical programs, which prepare students for direct entry into the workforce, rather than transfer to a university.
“This is true nationwide and reflects the nature of community and technical colleges,” said Laura McDowell, communications director for the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. “When the economy is good, fewer people go to college to learn skills needed to find a job. Our enrollments are counter-cyclical to the economy.”
Not all the news is bad.
WVC has two new programs coming online that could help boost future enrollment.
Pharmacy Technician starts this winter, a flexible evening and weekend program in which students can complete a one-year certificate or two-year degree.
“We were also approved by the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges to offer a new bachelor’s of applied science in teaching,” Richardson said. “Pending Public Education Standards Board approval, scheduled for next week if all goes well, the BAS-Teaching degree will meet an immediate need for preschool through third grade and special education teachers in WVC’s service district.”
Opportunities to find other revenue sources are limited, he said.
“Auxiliary services, such as the bookstore and cafeteria, provide some funding. Nearly all revenue comes from state funding, as community and technical colleges do not have authority to pass bonds or levies. Also, tuition is set by the Legislature,” he said. “One of the main ways we boost revenue, though limited, is through community partnerships when we begin a new program. For example, for the new pharmacy technician program we have a partnership with Confluence Health. They are co-funding the program director.”