At a meeting where Lane employees turned out to seek resolution to contract negotiations with the college, Board of Education members saw financial documents that show potential shortfalls between $8.5 million and $12.6 million for 2014-15.
“I saw a lot of signs here about respect,” board member Pat Albright said. “I respect reality, and our reality is grim. We have for so long maintained our programs on the backs of our students. It may be time to recognize that we’re a student-based institution.”
Lane administrators say they expect enrollment at the college to decline between 7 percent and 12 percent for the next school year.
Because tuition currently contributes approximately one-third of the revenue to Lane’s $100.7 million budget, enrollment declines can create large shortfalls.
“This is worse news than when I was pulled over on my way over to the board meeting tonight,” Board member Matthew Keating said.
Although none of the 2014-15 budget scenarios presented included tuition increases, they will be up for debate.
Board Chairwoman Rosie Pryor asked all of her colleagues, aside from an absent Sharon Stiles, what they thought about a potential tuition increase.
“I would like to say for the record, and to my colleagues, that I am not anxious to look at tuition increases because I just don’t think that when demand is declining you raise your prices,” Pryor said.
Board Member Robert Ackerman said he believed the college was getting dangerously close to $100 per-credit tuition.
“It bothers me philosophically that we have all of these people coming in here wanting a raise in their contract, and that’s not reality-based. This is silly to be doing this,” board member Gary LeClair said. “We should, if anything, be saying we’ll keep salaries where they are so we won’t reduce people.”
According to a transcript of remarks delivered by fine-arts instructor Lee Imonen, instructors have already sacrificed a lot.
“When the faculty is treated primarily as an expense to be limited, rather than as a source of expertise, the college loses sight of its mission,” Imonen said.
Brian Kelly, Lane’s vice president of college services, said approximately 85 percent of Lane’s budget is spent on staff, and those costs are projected to increase.
Lane is projecting a $16 million contribution into its employee health care this school year — a significant increase from the college’s $11 million contribution during the 2007-08 school year according to numbers produced in January.
Kelly said updated figures will be available at the board’s April 9 meeting.