Higher tuition fees on the horizon
Brian N. Willhite
February 2, 2011
Filed under News
A new state budget has been proposed for the Kern Community College District and confirms expectations of reduced funding. This contingent solution will also include an increase in student tuition fees raising them from $26 to $36 per unit, scheduled to go into effect July 1.
According to Amber Chiang, director of marketing and public relations for Bakersfield College, the new budget will have to pass through California voters before reaching the district.
“It’s proposed by Gov. Brown as part of his package for the mid-year revisions on the budget. Unfortunately, the issue he proposed is contingent upon a budget solution to be passed by the voters in the summer,” she said.
Chiang also expressed her concerns about the new governor’s tax package and the chances that it will be approved by voters during the special election.
“California typically is not favorable toward additional taxes, but everything the governor put forth is contingent on that package. Should that package pass, and should the governor’s budget be accepted as it is by the legislature, it would up our fees to $36 a unit,” said Chiang, who also feels that though the fees will be increased, it’s “still an incredible value for higher education and still nowhere near the actual cost of the education.”
KCCD’s chief financial officer, Tom Burke, explained what the budget proposal will include as well as underscoring how much of an effect the proposed $10 fee increase will have on the new budget plans. He also feels that it is unlikely that the fee increase will go back down.
“The community college system is going to have a $400 million reduction that equates to about $7.1 million reduction to the Kern Community College District. The proposed budget also includes $110 million in growth funding for the system or 1.9 percent growth. That would equate to about $1.9-million funding increase for KCCD. Those two items combined net to a reduction of about $5.2 million to the Kern Community College District,” Burke said.
Burke and everyone at KCCD and BC together have been anticipating and preparing for the cuts to happen. With a combination of spending reductions and an analysis of course offerings that can be cut, the district’s staff feels that they have prepared for this moment, assuming the proposed budget goes according to plan.
“We started our planning last year because we actually thought we would see these reductions hitting us this year. So we have plans put in place to deal with this reduction,” Burke said.
Chiang also discussed how BC has been planning for the budget reductions.
“Over the last several years, we’ve been really looking at the budget and how we can streamline operations; what we can do to start curtailing some of the cuts that have been coming at us since 2007-2008,” she said before explaining how BC will not be anticipating any cuts to staffing and classes.
“The cuts that we’re anticipating this year, we’ve already absorbed those, we’ve already taken care of them so we’re not expecting any mid-year cuts – no reductions in courses, no reductions in staffing and nothing like that.”
According to Chiang, BC has added courses this semester in the core areas of study that include classes in the math, science and English departments, which currently have the most waitlisted students.
“We added quite a few compared to Spring 2010 and at this point, no, we’re not looking to cut classes. What we’re looking to do, really, is to make sure that what we’re offering makes sense. Not only that, they’re classes that the students need but that they’re offered in such a progression that it’s beneficial to the students and that we’re looking carefully at what we’re offering.
“We added 29 more classes this year over last year, which is quite a few actually, and it still didn’t fit the need of our students, as the waitlists have shown. Our students are still trying to get classes because there are just so many students and not enough classes to go around,” Chiang said.
Community colleges around the state have all been making cuts to their programs including some that have eliminated their summer school programs, an option that BC president Greg Chamberlain said will not happen at the college, though it is possible that fewer classes will be offered. Additionally, according to Chiang, some colleges are taking out loans to support their colleges and make their staff’s payroll.
“We haven’t had to have layoffs, we haven’t had to take out loans to make payroll like other colleges in the state have had to do for the last two or three years – we haven’t had to go there,” said Chiang. “But the longer the state budget goes without being passed, the more likely that is because the colleges are not getting paid.”