Updated budget could bring higher fees

Keith Kaczmarek, Reporter

New fee hikes for next semester are in the budget that is currently under consideration, according to the listed budget on the California Community Colleges Web site.

If California state shortfalls reach projected levels, California community college students may be facing fees of $46 a unit next semester if certain “triggers” occur.

Additionally, there is authorization to make cuts at the mid-year point that retroactively apply to the fall semester, potentially putting some California community colleges in a difficult position of needing to make drastic cuts to meet their budget.

Bakersfield College’s own budget seems to have been already cut to handle any potential shortfall. An email last summer from Sandra Serrano, Kern Community College District chancellor, states, “No matter what state economic scenario occurs, KCCD’s tentative budget already anticipates the state’s projected revenue shortfall. As a result, KCCD will not have to make mid-year cuts.”

She added later in the same email “While the KCCD budget will not change if the state revenues come up short, students  may pay more for classes.”

Some California community colleges have had such difficulty that they have not had summer classes at all, but BC has been spared this option. Greg Chamberlain, president of BC, said “We’ve had a significantly reduced offering, but our board feels that we should have a summer presence.”

“We’d like to believe that we’ve done a good job keeping people,” he said. “We have cut people (adjuncts).”

Adjuncts are professors that only teach part-time, and they are often hired by colleges because of the cost-savings they provide. This is because the positions don’t offer benefits.

“No one likes that we had to reduce classes,” Chamberlain said. “We are going to do our best within our budget restrictions.”

While there are rumors of cuts to many programs on campus, such as a 60% reduction in the budget for the Tutoring Center, there have also been confirmed extra expenditures. For example, Sgt. Chris Counts has confirmed that there will be two new temporary officers. “The school is very supportive of safety and security, and it has not affected us,” he said.

LaMont Schiers, director of administrative services at BC, has noted that while cuts began on on-campus services in 2009, this year would not be as bad. “This year,” he said, “we planned for minor reductions.” He also notes that BC is “over-cap,” meaning that we are serving more students than we are receiving money from the state to serve. “We have been over-cap for several years, but we believe that we can be over-cap for several more years and still serve our students.”

He also noted that eliminating sections and part-time adjunct professors acts as a safety valve on the school’s budget, noting that “we take one year at a time” when it comes to determining what classes will be cut.

Also, a lobbyist was hired to work with the state legislature. Sandra Serrano stated in a July 5 email “It’s important to note that advocacy with our legislators is giving them and other decision-makers a better understanding of how community colleges benefit the communities we serve. While all of higher education is seeing deep cuts in this year’s budget, the community colleges, for the first time in a long time, fared better than the CSU and UC systems.”

“The state’s workload reduction language emphasizes that we must protect our core mission – transfer, career, and technical education and basic skills. This remains KCCD’s enrollment management priority. In a statewide budget discussion this week, we were warned that the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the Department of Finance will continue to carefully monitor community college course schedules and will take measures to enforce this priority with a heavy hand.”