Lane Community College is facing a $10 million budget deficit for the 2018 fiscal year. The State of Oregon requires that all higher education institutions present a balanced budget by the beginning of the next fiscal year, or June 1.
On April 19, the board hosted a public meeting for students and faculty to express their frustrations and concerns over proposed budget cuts. According to Lane’s budget committee, $10,683,300 is the specific number that must be made up, $7,322,300 of which must come from program reductions, faculty cuts and student tuition and fee increases.
An estimated 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended and 145 individuals signed up to speak in front of the board.
The meeting began at 4:30 p.m. with an introduction from board chair Rosie Prior explaining the purpose of the meeting and how each speaker should go about presenting what they had to say.
After the introduction, Prior asked each individual to come up to the podium and say their piece. Each speaker was allowed to talk for three minutes.
The counseling department, Early Childhood Education and Respiratory Therapy programs, three of eight programs slated for elimination, had the most supporters in attendance.
Lane’s Health Clinic is also one of the services that will be eliminated from campus if the board does not approve an increase in student fees.
“For over 40 years the LCC health clinic has provided students with on-campus health care. For many students this is the only health care that they can access,” Laura Greene, Interim Director for the health clinic, said. “For a student fee of $45 a term, the health clinic will become self-sufficient and could continue to provide important health services to the LCC community.”
After Greene spoke several other members of health clinic staff shared similar thoughts followed by students and other staff who have used the health clinic.
As the current proposal stands, the counseling department will have to cut two faculty positions. If approved, this will save the college a projected $230,200 in 2018. Marva Solomon is one of the eight counselors on staff that remain. She voiced her concerns about the lack of accessibility students will have to the counseling department if the cuts go through.
“We are there when you need us, or at least we used to be, during open hours there is only one counselor available. Lane needs to attain more accessibility for students to meet with counselors,” Solomon said.
A couple other counselors also spoke, expressing similar frustrations. Counselor Leslie Soriano Cervantes read a story from an undisclosed student about how imperative the counseling department is to students.
Another department on campus related to student life is also in jeopardy, only the stakes are much higher. Unlike the counseling department, the budget proposal pushes to eliminate the Early Childhood Education program all together. The budget committee estimates a savings of $148,900 for 2018 and an even higher savings of $381,100 for 2019. If eliminated, this will be the second highest savings from cutting an individual program after workforce development.
Even though enrollment in ECE is down, this program gained the most support from students, staff and other members of the community who were at the meeting. Supporters of the program held signs saying “Fund a strong ECE workforce! Do your Job!”
“I understand that Lane is suffering and enrollment is low, but I want you to think about who’s going to be attending this college in 16 or 17 years,” Corinthia Coffield, a second year student in the program who will finish this June, said. “Those are the children who my peers and I are so passionate about educating.”
During the half hour break Rosie Prior shared some of her thoughts on what she had taken away from the meeting so far, incidentally highlighting why programs like Early Childhood Education and Respiratory Therapy, who both have gradually declining enrollment, are at risk of being eliminated.
“The only fair way to look at these issues is to evaluate the programs where enrollment has been gradually declining, look at the programs where we have a waiting list of students looking to get in and align the school with the programs with the greatest enrollment. We need to respond to the demands of the community,” Prior said.
At the beginning of the meeting board member Tony McCown also led a vote to hold another board meeting on Wednesday April 26th in the Center for Meeting and Learning in Building 19 for students and faculty to continue to voice their concerns.