Lane Community College's Student Newspaper

The $12 Million Question

Posted on May 1, 2014 | in News | by

Eugene on Monday, April 28, 2014. (Eugene Johnson/For The Register-Guard)

Lane President Mary Spilde speaks during the Board of Education’s April 28 special session. The college is considering measures to balance next year's budget against a $12 million deficit. [Eugene Johnson/ The Torch]

Eugene on Monday, April 28, 2014. (Eugene Johnson/For The Register-Guard)

Lane student government President Paul Zito addresses the Board of Education at the April 28 special session. [Eugene Johnson/ The Torch]

Lane President Mary Spilde speaks during the Board of Education’s April 28 special session. The college is considering measures to balance next year's budget against a $12 million deficit. [Eugene Johnson/ The Torch]Lane student government President Paul Zito addresses the Board of Education at the April 28 special session. [Eugene Johnson/ The Torch]

Board directs Spilde, administration to deliver more information on budget cuts

The Lane Board of Education fielded two plans this week to balance the budget against a projected $12.6 million shortfall and an estimated 12 percent drop in enrollment as other cuts loom on the horizon.

Each of those plans calls for drastic measures: shuttering the Cottage Grove campus, reducing the subsidies offered to Lane students who pay for onsite childcare, increasing per-credit tuition by $3, and/or passing on the card-swipe fees assessed at the Titan Store and cafeteria to customers.

Citizens, faculty members and student leaders offered hours of testimony as spectators strained to listen from the foyer during the April 28 special session.

After the testimony and the proposals, the board voted 6-1 to suspend laundry service in the 2014-15 school year, a measure that will save the college $257,300, just 2 percent of the shortfall. The college provides laundry service for several departments, including athletics and culinary arts, as well as outside institutions.

The board may adopt one of the two proposals, one from administration and another from the college Budget and Finance Subcommittee, in June.

A $3 per-credit tuition hike would net Lane almost $1 million in additional revenue, but student government Vice President Rebekah Ellis said the effect this could have on enrollment would be devastating.

“I just wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of … the choices that I make on a day- to-day basis over my personal health versus my education, what I can afford and what I can’t afford — any increase in tuition is just basically asking me for money that I don’t have,” Ellis said at the meeting.

With their proposal, administrators sought to close the $12 million gap without increasing tuition.

The Budget and Finance Subcommittee crafted its compromise proposal around a $3 tuition increase and the closure of the Cottage Grove campus, which would save Lane an estimated $440,544.

The administration considered closing the Cottage Grove campus, but initially passed on the idea, Lane President Mary Spilde said after the meeting.

“I don’t know what criteria the Finance and Budget Subcommittee used to put Cottage Grove on the list. We’ll take their proposal under advisement,” Spilde said. “We’ll need to carefully look at the option.”

In an April 26 email to faculty members, faculty union President Jim Salt suggested a “mere $5 tuition rate hike” would prevent the college from cutting $1.6 million from programs.

According to each of the proposals, the college would save as much as $4.6 million — more than one-third of the shortfall — by leaving faculty vacancies unfilled and reassigning instructors, but the compromise provides a more conservative estimate of $3.7 million.

Each plan also calls for the elimination and reassignment of part-time faculty, to save Lane approximately $2.8 million.

Salt and student government President Paul Zito sit on the committee, tasked with consolidating proposals from several different factions at Lane.

The student government sought to balance the budget without increasing tuition, but Zito said he entered negotiations willing to consider the $3 bump as a bargaining chip.

At the April 30 student government meeting, the senate voted to cap any tuition increase at $1.88 per credit.

“We agreed to the increase in bargaining and stand by it. The compromise is already in place,” Salt said. “How it will look still needs to be worked out, but it’s another sacrifice.”

Both plans would increase the revenue the privately owned Titan Store must contribute to the college’s budget, from $300,000 to $500,000. The two plans would also increase the enrollment cap on classes, which might net the college an additional $1.5 million.

Zito and student government Treasurer Zach Wais said that’s the smartest measure in either proposal.

Each plan would require the college to delay the purchase of instructional technology and capital improvements to save an additional $1 million; withhold the transfer of $500,000 in financial aid funds to match federal contributions; and return $500,000 or more from the international program’s net income to the general fund.

(A&C Editor Penny Scott and Production Manager Byron Hughey contributed to this report.)

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