The shortfall for Lane’s upcoming budget is $620,000, and the college administration has been seeking campus-wide input into finding ways to balance the budget.
On Feb. 4 at the Center for Meeting and Learning approximately forty people listened to speakers from the administration as they presented relevant measurable data and other impacting factors. People then gathered in small groups to brainstorm ideas. That evening, at the monthly board meeting, board members were also presented with budget information and discussed several factors and options.
Tuition currently stands at $98 per credit hour, and increases of either $1.50 or $2.00 per credit hour were discussed. The former would bring in extra revenue totaling approximately $412,500 and the latter would generate $550,00. Both estimates are based on enrollment staying at the current level.
Vice president for college services Brian Kelly said that freezing tuition rates would be challenging, stating that no changes to tuition rates would conservatively mean a loss of $700,000 in tuition revenue due to multiple student entry and exit points.
Either of the tuition increases would likely make Lane the most expensive community college in the state of Oregon for resident students. At Portland Community College tuition is currently at $92 per credit hour, Chemeketa Community College stands at $94 and Umpqua Community College at $85.
The college is also hoping for additional state funding. It is not yet known if $500 or $535 million will be the final allocation for the 2015 – 2016 school year. The $535 figure would mean an increase of $2.1 million more than was allocated for the 2014 – 2015 school year. The possibility of an increase in state funding is one of the many unknown variables that are beyond the college’s direct control and make budget planning difficult.
Another unknown is enrollment levels, which play a big part in the budget. Recently, Lane saw a 12 percent drop in enrollment. This is a significantly higher percentage than enrollment drops at other community colleges across the state, which do not pass 9 percent.
A further enrollment drop of 10 percent would result in a deficit of $2.75 million. Alternatively, a 10 percent increase would result in a budget increase of $2.75 million.
Retired Lane dean, Don McNair is back on a part-time basis helping administrators with special projects. He informed the board, that in his opinion, the enrollment decline is likely to continue for another two years before it plateaus. He said that general education enrollment is down 16 plus percent and career technical is down about 20 percent. This, according to the previous four cycle periods, McNair said, indicates that the decline has further to go.
Board members discussed the current $27 per term transportation fee. Kelly said that the fee covers parking lot maintenance, some security expenses, LTD bus passes and funding for Bike Lane and other transportation programs.
Board member Matt Keating said that Lane is the only higher education institution that he has been involved in that hasn’t charged an application fee for new students or a parking fee. Keating said that a parking fee would send a clear message that the college cares about its carbon footprint, would encourage people to choose other transportation, would help monitor who is on campus and generate needed revenue for the college.
Board members agreed that the expenses involved in implementing a parking fee would not be cost effective. Lane president Mary Spilde added that the $27 transport fee was implemented in lieu of a parking fee.
Regarding the $12 athletic fee, board member Gary LeClair commented that the fee applies to all students and asked if there has been push back from students. Spilde responded saying that the courts have upheld fees for services that don’t apply to all students as long as colleges remain viewpoint neutral on the decision.
Board member Rosie Prior suggested that the college consider using reserve funds to get through the current financial situation. “What constitutes a time in history when I should look to reserves to endeavor to support an organization that’s struggling to destabilize itself?” Prior said. “It strikes me, this is one of those times in history.”