Program elimination process flawed; A possible solution

Commentary by Adrienne Mitchell, Academic Learning Skills Faculty

The Board of Education voted 4-2 to eliminate the Auto Body/Paint and Electronics programs, the deleterious effects of which will ripple through the college and community, based, in large part, on the numbers provided by the administration, without having thoroughly considered the LCCEA analysis of the economic impact of the cuts or the Budget and Finance Subcommittee’s budget balancing proposal.
Even though Mary Spilde has publicly made claims to the contrary, administrators have not provided any substantive critique of the LCCEA analysis – an analysis that demonstrates that the college will lose money next year by eliminating the programs.
LCCEA and administrators met on April 24 with the objective of comparing both sets of analyses, but that objective was not met. There was lengthy discussion about the administration’s numbers, but the LCCEA had not yet completed any analysis of the required program courses not included in the administration’s analysis because we were still making requests for the data, including lists of all courses students have taken, data which the college never provided.
It was at this meeting that the administrators acknowledged (and repeated often since) that the estimate that 75-88 percent of the students impacted would come to Lane even if their program were not offered was simply an assumption; they also acknowledged that the percentage was more likely somewhere between their 75/88 percent assumption and the nine percent LCCEA estimate based on an actual student survey even though they stated shortly thereafter, “we stand by our numbers.”
In addition, administrators then acknowledged that only some of the required courses in the affected programs were included in their projection that the programs’ elimination would produce a savings. At that time, administrators further explained that they wouldn’t know how to do an analysis of all required program courses and that it would be “too hard.” No one suggested that such an analysis, if it were undertaken, would be flawed.
The LCCEA completed this analysis of net revenue (after subtracting costs) for required program courses that had not been included in administration projections and presented it for the first time at the College Council Budget and Finance Subcommittee forum on May 5.
Mary Spilde’s statement, “by the time of the College Council budget forum we had analyzed the methods used and did not believe they were an accurate representation of the true costs and revenues,” is misleading; the LCCEA had not shared our method for calculating such net revenue nor the actual data prior to the forum. Furthermore, immediately following the forum, one administrator stated that there was nothing wrong with the LCCEA numbers. They simply differ in scope from those of the administration.
On May 6, Budget and Finance Subcommittee members briefly discussed the LCCEA analysis as well as the Banner data Barb Delansky provided, which proved inconclusive, and the actual fee receipts Jennifer Steele provided, which the LCCEA immediately agreed to incorporate into its calculations.
Unlike the meetings about program cuts, the subcommittee work has been largely substantive, collaborative and inclusive of all stakeholders. Jennifer Steele has demonstrated the utmost professionalism and collaboration in the subcommittee processes in terms of the provision of information to help guide our work.
Brian Kelly has been extraordinarily competent in his inclusion of new, more accurate methods for projecting costs this year. Student representatives have dedicated countless hours to preparing proposals. Committee members have complimented Jim Salt for his work developing and operationalizing a framework that incorporates all relevant budget factors and balancing options, a framework which all members of the committee support.
This collaborative effort by all groups — students, administration, budget office support staff, LCCEA and LCCEA representatives alike — did lead to a budget-balancing proposal for next year that obviates program cuts without raising tuition (in the final column of file at: ) supported by all representatives of the ASLCC, LCCEF and LCCEA — a proposal that is nearly identical to that of the administration (noted in the penultimate column of the same file), the only difference of significance being the $195,100 the administration projects to save from program closures.
What is at stake in this flawed, unilateral process is not only the impact on next year’s budget, but the comprehensive mission of the community college, the vital career technical programs that will be lost if eliminated, the future students who will be harmed, the jobs that our community will lose, the integrity of administration and board processes and some semblance of a recovery from the college’s current “broken” state.
With all that at stake, why not commit, as called for by Jim Salt, to a genuine discussion of the issues including a substantive focus on the differing analyses of the economic impact of the cuts, and the full consideration of the Budget and Finance Subcommittee’s proposal, at a public meeting followed by a vote?