It was standing room only at the April 8 Board of Education meeting when the Lane administration proposed eliminating the Electronics program, Automotive Collision and Refinishing program and suspending the Medical Office Assistance program. This was the main topic of discussion at the meeting.
Almost 30 people, including Lane faculty, staff and current and former students, along with Eugene employers addressed the board. Speakers protested against the proposed cuts and complained about how the process was handled.
Faculty were not consulted or made aware of a survey that was conducted with local businesses as part of the decision-making process. The survey was done in secret, according to Lane Community College Education Association President Jim Salt.
Lane president Mary Spilde said that the process began in August or September last year. Board members had asked the administration to look at expenses rather than revenues, she said, adding that they also indicated they may have reached their limit regarding tuition increases.
Spilde said that when the college was facing a $12.6 million deficit last year, the administration started with a long list of programs and disciplines under review. They looked at the multiple criteria developed in the past and approved by the board for budget reductions and applied it to the short list of programs.
The survey was used to confirm or negate the data Spilde said, adding that employers were selected by asking the Oregon Employment Department, division deans, advisory committee members and Cooperative Education faculty for input. “There was nothing secret about this, “ Spilde said. “People were involved in identifying employers to interview.”
Spilde said that information had been posted to the website and communications were sent to all staff. The LCCEA was informed about the possibility of layoffs and, a couple of weeks previously, were informed of the specific programs being recommended. Confidentiality was asked for, she said, and no alternatives were offered.
Administrators expect 75 percent of future students who would have enrolled in the cut programs, would attend Lane anyway, studying something else. Salt commented that there is no data to support this belief. Out of the 56 students who were asked if they would have come to Lane to study a different program, had their desired program not existed, only five said they would.
Board member Tony McCown said that the MOA program is “super expensive to run.” This brought protests from the gallery, refuting his claim.
“The cost per FTE is $10,435. The average cost per FTE at the college is $4,391,” he said. “The average net revenue for the college per student is $1,400. The net revenue for a MOA student is negative $5,092. It’s an expensive program,” McCown said conclusively.
“You do not need to do this to save money,” Salt said, adding that not only is the stated saving of $386,000 a tiny amount of money, the figure is unrealistic. One teacher can’t see current students through to completion in each of the programs being eliminated. It would take two teachers for each program, he said.
“In a time of constrained resources, we can’t do everything,” Spilde said. She explained that multiple factors impact decisions, including labor market demands for different types of jobs. Decisions to cut programs, she said, aren’t just about saving money.
Regarding the MOA program, employers commented that the college is not doing things it needs to do she said. That could be a question of resources — the college has not been able to buy capital equipment because of cutbacks to save people, she said.
“It isn’t just copying machines,” responded board member Rosie Pryor emphatically, ignoring Chairman Albright’s protest that she was speaking out of order. “You can’t teach students on 19th century equipment when they (students) are trying to get jobs in a 21st century world.”
Commenting on a perceived pattern of behavior by the administration, Salt said they arrive at well-intended conclusions and then defend them. He maintains that, in spite of contradictory evidence and arguments, the administration locks into a position.
“There’s a reality and it’s our job to figure out what that reality is and work together and make decisions based on the reality,” he said, asking the board not to focus on proposals that have been presented, but to focus on that reality.
“I learned about this on Friday. That’s collaboration? If we work together, we can accomplish tremendous things,” Salt said.
Board member Garry LeClair expressed concern regarding salary increases. “I continue to be appalled at our inflexibility on contracted personnel expenses despite 25 percent reduction in enrollment,” he said, adding that it makes no sense.
Regarding union members, he said “when all the parading is done and all the crying and gnashing of teeth is done, they always get a raise. I’ve been on this board five years. They always get a raise.”
College administration has begun the process of informing affected faculty and students. Advisors have been asked to work with the students in helping them complete their courses of study if the board approves the program cuts. However, no new students will be accepted into the programs in question.
The final decision regarding the proposed cuts will be made at the May board meeting. Board members commented that they had heard conflicting opinions and data. They asked for more information and time to digest what they had heard.
“No matter what we do, somebody gets hurt because there isn’t enough money to do all the things we want to do. So how are we going to decide who gets hurt,” LeClair said.
According to an email Salt shared with the Torch on Tuesday, April 7 he claimed that initially, administrators said the decision to cut the programs was to save money. However, when challenged, he said, they revealed that the real motivation behind the cuts is concern over quality and graduates’ ability to get jobs.
He also challenged the administration’s choice of who to include in the survey. Local large employers were included, rather than actual employers of graduates, he said.
Salt contended that the administration’s plan is to suspend the MOA program, until current faculty have retired or lost their recall rights, then reopen the program and hire new faculty.
Salt complained that faculty members were not involved in analyzing the quality of their own programs or made aware of the survey. There was no valid selection process in choosing who to interview he added.
In some cases, Salt stated, the Division Dean and administrators are retaliating against faculty members for standing up for their rights.
Association representatives pointed out the problems inherent in this course of action, Salt commented, adding that they urged administrators to work with faculty regarding ways to restructure curriculums, but were not listened to.
Speakers protest program cuts
Kimberly Tainter: Lane student
I’m an upcoming MOA student. I’m to apply in June as soon as this term is over. I have over 43 credits towards this program. I’m enrolled in another 16 this term … I have already racked up over $25,000 in student loans. If you suspend this program, I will not have the means to repay those loans. This would devastate me.
Eric Schofield: President Schofield Electric
I’ve been associated as an advisor to the ET program for the last four years. They have been using and teaching technology that we are installing on a daily basis. It’s not irrelevant. Its current, it’s what is being used.
I understand from an interview that I had with Ms. Newton that my name is in this report that is putting the ET program and others on the chopping block. I would like to have the opportunity to read that report and see if my comments are taken out of context or just misconstrued in the way they’re being reported … If I’m going to be quoted, I’m going to be quoted correctly.
Thomas Potter: Pediatrics employer
I too, am apparently a surveyed victim. We are having a very difficult time finding certified medical assistants. . . we’re using medical office assistants to do the scribing for the provider in office. They have to have a certificate in order to meet the meaningful use requirements, but this makes the providers more efficient.
Marianna Paredones: ASLCC Campus Community Director
Shame – shame that you have decided, or have proposed to cut, suspend programs that people’s lives depend on … you are failing your vision … you are failing your values. And you are failing the students …I am disgusted that this is even a proposition. I am disgusted that students have to fear for their futures, that faculty have to come up here and defend their programs that have so much prestige and so much respect. That they have to defend that, it’s disgusting.
Ken Jordan: Auto collision instructor
I’m a graduate of the program …I found employment almost immediately … opened my own business. I take time out of my day and come and teach class. I really enjoy it. If that’s not a testament to student success, I don’t know what is. I’d just like to take this opportunity to invite any of you down to the shop. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and I’ll give you a personal tour and show you what we do.
Kelly Collins: MOA instructor
Take an already successful program and suspend it …what about those employers? They emphatically say, don’t stop the program …This is the finest medical assistant program in the area. Why go through suspension where you damage the program, not this year, but next year and the year after that and the year after that.
Marty Pittman: MOA Program coordinator
The last five years we’ve had 158 graduates, 96 percent pass rate on the national AAMA certification test. Leading medical facilities, such as OFA2, hires only AAMA certified medical assistants. Employment each year of these students is between 80 and 90 percent within six months of graduation. Of those that want to work, 100 percent employment is within nine months.
Andrew Moser: Electronics technology program graduate.
I went and got an electrical engineering degree from UO. I will say that the only reason that I’m employed by the company that I’m currently employed with is because of the skills that I learned here in the electronics program.
What they are teaching is extremely relevant to how things are manufactured today, the robotics, the industrial controls they have — they are teaching exactly what we do every single day. It’s not just important for Lane County to have this program. This is important for the state of Oregon — for the United States … What’s being taught there is used all over the world … it would be a huge mistake to cut that program. I have lost all confidence in Lane’s administration.
Veronica Collins: Lane student
I’m a current student at LCC and I just started in the fall. I’m taking my pre-recs for the Medical Assistants Program. I was planning on applying for it in June … I’ve earned 25 Lane credits working towards the program, soon to be 38 at the end of spring term … If it was suspended, it would be a devastation to me.
Jim O’Brian: instructor, ABSE
A growing number of events caused me to question the ability of Lane’s current administration . . .
Terry Dale: Electronics Technology instructor
I was surprised, I was shocked to learn just yesterday that the quality of the [electronics] program was under question and the viability of that program to allow students to get jobs in the community was not up to par. Not once, in six years that I’ve been teaching here, has the administration in any way expressed concern about the subjects we are teaching or the methods with which we teach.
Dean Bergen: Auto collision instructor
For the last seven to ten years, we had a two to three year waiting list to get into the program. So we’re told there aren’t any jobs . . . I think whoever looked at this, looked at a very narrow scope.