It is now week seven of spring term at Lane Community College. The Board of Education and the Budget Committee continue to hash out ideas on how to make up the $10 million budget deficit.
Since the first proposal was publicly released in early April, several changes have been made to best accommodate all programs on campus that are in jeopardy of taking losses. On May 10, in the Center for Meeting and Learning in Building 19, the board held another public forum for students, staff and community members to get informed on the budget updates and continue to voice opinions and concerns.
Vice President of College Services Brian Kelly began the meeting by walking the board step-by-step through the updated packet. Kelly highlighted changes and addressed clarifications requested by board members at previous meetings.
One of the most significant changes was retainment of the Early Childhood Education Program. In the first proposal, the ECE was facing elimination all together. Now, however, the budget committee has found a way to keep the program by reorganizing its day to day functions and cutting faculty and parts of the curriculum.
In the current proposal the ECE budget will be reduced by $135,000. This will leave the program with a $272,500 operating budget for next year. In the previous May 3 budget update, the committee had included proposed details on how to achieve the $135,000 reduction.
According to the Budget Committee update document, “Pending an agreement with the faculty association and the affected faculty, the Early Childhood Education Program will be retained and reorganized to reduce the total credits required to earn a degree, a reduction in practicum courses, and the elimination of 1 FTE faculty member. If an agreement is reached the program will be retained.”
In the May 10 budget update the terms of this agreement were not included, only that the program will be retained. Whether or not an agreement was made in accordance with the suggested terms from the May 3 update is unclear.
By June 17 the board will have a plan to allocate the remaining budget for the program and how this will affect the operations of the ECE. It’s still unclear what this will mean for staff eliminations and specific cuts to the program’s curriculum.
Counseling is another department facing changes in staff organization for next year. Currently the budget committee had proposed to eliminate two faculty counselors. The updated proposal details explained that two counselors will be removed from the department, but instead of facing elimination all together they will be reassigned and given different responsibilities for which they are qualified. This change in staff will reduce the budget by $101,300 for next year.
According to the updated proposal, “Budgetary savings will be reflected in reduced part-time faculty rather than contracted faculty.” Details on the impact of a reduction in part-time faculty within the counseling department were not stated.
Jeffrey Borrowdale, a full time Philosophy and Religion faculty member was the first speaker to take the podium. Borrowdale has taught at Lane for several years and has also written the majority of Lane’s Philosophy and Religion curriculum. Under the current proposal, his faculty position will be eliminated.
“Mr. Kelly said that Lane can no longer afford the depth and breadth of courses that the college currently offers. That is simply not true. Offering depth and breadth is not expensive. What the administration is saying is they can’t afford is full-time faculty,” Borrowdale said.
Borrowdale continued to explain that the philosophy and religion program has a 92 percent fill rate, meaning that many students enroll in these classes every term. The majority of philosophy and religion classes taught at Lane are lower-division courses, however Borrowdale highlighted that Lane’s program also offers transfer credit to the University of Oregon. During fall term, UO offered 33 sections of lower-division philosophy. A number significantly higher than Lane’s program, motivating students to pursue a more in-depth understanding of the field at UO.
“There certainly is a demand for our field. It’s part of a greater social sciences curriculum and it’s something that needs to be offered at every college. We need a comprehensive philosophy program,” Borrowdale said.
Lane’s Board of Education will continue to deliberate the budget deficit dilemma until the end of the fiscal year, June 30. No finalized decisions have been made but no matter where the cuts are some programs will face losses.