Colleges Explore Creative Approaches To Counter Budget Cuts

Career College Central summary:

  • After years of deep cuts in state funding, the recession and its slow recovery, only to be followed by sequestration and a government shutdown, community college leaders across the country are beginning to use unprecedented measures to help make ends meet. Fundraising — a long-standing activity at four-year institutions — is becoming a necessity, rather than an option, for community colleges struggling to continue the mission. Schools are also turning to foundations, relying on scholarships and partnering more with business and industry for support and opportunities to enhance student success and graduation rates.
  • The financial crises has forced institutions to re-examine how efficiently they are using resources. Some experts are calling on state officials to reinvest in community colleges. The challenges are creating opportunities, as well as new ways of doing business. Educators and experts are optimistic about the future of community colleges.
  • In Arizona, responsibility for fundraising, once solely the chancellor’s duty, is being spread among three of 10 presidents within the Maricopa Community College system. Each president is now charged with devoting 10 percent of his or her time toward raising money. That fundraising time will increase to 25 percent in two or three years, says Debra Thompson, vice chancellor, business services, Maricopa Community College. The Maricopa system, which also relies on property taxes and tuition, lost more than $60 million in state aid.
  • State-wide, community colleges in Arizona lost more than $100 million between fiscal years 2008–09 and 2011–12, Thompson says. In addition to ramping up fundraising efforts, Maricopa Community College also imposed $35 million in operational cuts and $11 million in cuts in capital spending, on an annual basis. Administrators also raised tuition, and property tax rates were increased.
  • Arizona, California and Louisiana are among the states hit hardest by the recession, and community colleges in each state experienced deep cuts in state funding over the past few years, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., a nonpartisan research and policy institute that focuses on fiscal policies and programs that affect low- and moderate-income Americans. In addition, two-year schools will lose additional funding as a result of sequestration, automatic federal spending cuts that went into effect March 1.

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