Budget subcommittee asks for ideas

Facing a deficit, LCC’s Budget Development Subcommittee looks to save money and raise enrollment

P.W. Braunberger // The Torch
Robert Kirkpatrick, former ASLCC President, chair of LCC’s Budget Development Subcommittee and the only student on the subcommittee, calls for students, faculty, staff and members of the larger community to post suggestions on the subcommittee’s blog. The subcommittee is required by law to present proposals for a balanced budget.

Lane Community College’s Budget Development Subcommittee held a forum Jan. 25 to ask students, faculty and staff for ideas on how the college can save money, raise funds and increase enrollment to avoid a deficit of $3.2 million.

About thirty people gathered at the Center for Meeting and Learning in Building 19 to hear the subcommittee’s ideas and to voice their own.

Lane Community College President Margaret Hamilton urged every department on campus, including her own office, to brainstorm ways to save money. President Hamilton wants to avoid the kinds of cuts made last year when LCC’s Board of Education eliminated the respiratory therapy, watershed science technician, and honors programs.

“Do you buy something? Do you rent something? Do you use something?” President Hamilton asked. “There is not a service, an entity on campus that should not be having this serious conversation. I’d much rather be engaged in those conversations than cut.”

Several speakers cited instances where departments had already saved money, like combining multiple sections of classes that didn’t have enough students or upgrading computers with solid-state drives instead of buying new machines.

Brian Kelly, Vice President of College Services and a member of the subcommittee, praised “the deans, directors, managers, project coordinators, every faculty member that’s managing their part of the budget” for “doing good work, doing excellent work.”

According to Kelly, the majority of Lane’s deficit is caused by low enrollment over the past few years. LCC gets most of its funds from three main sources: tuition and fees, Oregon’s Community College Fund, and Lane County property taxes.

When fewer students enroll at Lane or take fewer classes, the college doesn’t just lose tuition dollars, it also loses money from the state and the county. Lane received 24.5 million dollars from the state in the 2017-2018 school year. That’s 6.7 million down from the 31.2 million the college received in 2015-2016.

“A primary factor in both our tuition dollars and in our state support fund is the amount of enrollment,” Kelly said. “Every decision we make has to be enrollment based.”

Faculty and staff presented the subcommittee with several ideas for increasing enrollment: putting more resources behind recruiting; building stronger relationships with local high schools and universities; offering more evening hybrid and online courses to better serve students with daytime responsibilities; making technology function better in computer-equipped classrooms; getting departments to work together on class scheduling to eliminate time-conflicts that delay student progress; and making the registration process easier, especially for members of the community who might only want to take a class or two.

One student spoke, advocating better support for students with disabilities. “We are not opening our doors and providing the accommodations that are federally mandated,” she said. “And it might be one of the things that’s causing us to have” greater declines in enrollment in the past few years than all other colleges in Oregon. “I think we can make huge moves and speak to those people in our community who would like to be employed but found that our community college did not have the resources available to support their success,” she said, to room-wide applause.

The subcommittee, which includes faculty, staff and management and is chaired by LCC student Robert Kirkpatrick, created a blog available on a Lane website where students, faculty, staff and members of the community can make additional suggestions for attracting more students and saving more money.

Feb. 14 is the deadline for the subcommittee to show the public its first proposals for balancing the budget. The subcommittee must then get balancing proposals to LCC’s Board of Education by Feb. 22. The Board of Education will make final budget decisions by Jun. 30.