Lane Community College's Student Newspaper

Students, taxpayers need better budget data

Posted on January 30, 2013 | in Editorial, Opinion | by

ASLCC reluctantly decided to support the Board of Education’s proposal to increase tuition by $2 per-credit based on the Higher Education Price Index, a measure of the relative cost of education nationwide.

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Many student leaders said they had enough information after Lane Director of Government and Community Relations Brett Rowlett explained the index and the college’s demand for a tuition increase to the ASLCC at its Jan. 23 meeting.

According to the latest budget proposal, the board will consider an additional $5 per-credit tuition increase in June. As such, the board has more to explain and ASLCC has more to consider before student leaders weigh in on the next hike.

Past budgets have justified increases using four factors: the increasing demand for education, the maintenance of services, stagnant state funding and inflation.

However, the college has furnished inadequate information detailing the cost-efficiency of these services, Lane has seen its first major drop in enrollment and Gov.

John Kitzhaber is seeking to link state funding to college performance, three facts that should spur the Board to re-examine its spending priorities.

According to the proposed 2013-2014 budget document, “In past years, Lane’s board has heard from students that maintaining current service levels is their highest priority and has acted accordingly by raising tuition.”

As The Torch reported in its Jan. 23 editorial, it’s difficult for students and taxpayers to gauge how cost-effective these services are when the college is incapable of releasing a line-item budget.

“Financial dashboard,” the tool Lane provides to some of its employees to gauge revenues and expenditures in both current and prior budgets, often appears to be incomplete or inaccurate due to software limitations. As of Jan. 29, this tool reported the following:

— The Torch is apparently operating at a $16,000 deficit. That’s news to us, considering the most recent departmental budget documents estimate The Torch has a $0.43 surplus.

— Somehow, Lane’s laundry fund went $88,000 in the red.

— The college president’s office is $847,000 in the hole.

— The Titan Store and Infrastructure Services each owe Lane $1.6 million.

Of course, the financial dashboard paints such a stark picture of the college’s operating budget because, as the fine print warns us, the tool can only consider revenue and expenditures, excluding the interdepartmental fund transfers that form the backbone of Lane’s budgeting strategy.

Any tuition hike makes education less accessible, but murky budgeting, unchecked priorities and an uncertain future makes the board’s upcoming decision inaccessible to students and taxpayers, in violation of democratic principles.

The Torch continues to encourage the ASLCC to hound Lane for better numbers. Furthermore, the board should require a referendum for students to approve any future tuition hikes before we’re all priced out of community college.

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