Shoreline Community College officials will recommend a $41.6 million operating budget to the Board of Trustees at the June 25, 2014 regular meeting.
The good news for students is that tuition, which is set by the state, is not increasing and fee increases by the college will be held to a minimum. “We know that as the state has pulled back funding for colleges over the past five years due to the poor economy, students picked up that burden,” Interim President Daryl Campbell said. “We’re sensitive to the overall cost to students.”
The state now contributes just 41 percent of the funds the college can direct toward providing education and training to students. Another 3 percent from the state comes with strings attached. Tuition now matches that total at 44 percent of the operating budget. The rest, 12 percent, comes from money generated locally through a variety of grants, contracts and other sources controlled by the college.
While recent times have been tough, a prudent approach has allowed the college to build a set of reserve funds and take a more strategic approach to budgeting. The proposed budget for the coming year does include just more than $1 million in strategically directed spending of which about $300,000 is new money.
“During the recession, we were just reacting to one cut after another as ordered by the state,” Campbell said. “In the urgency of the moment, it was very difficult to make adjustments and direct what money we did have to the most effective uses.”
In 2013-14, Campbell and then-President Lee Lambert created a “strategic action plan” process that let college departments request funding for efforts that supported items in the adopted strategic plan. For this budget cycle, Campbell worked with the college Strategic Plan and Budget Committee to expand the planning and request process.
“More than 50 proposals were submitted from across the campus,” Campbell said. “Key components of the process are transparency and accountability. First, everyone can see who requested what. Then, everyone can see who got what and why. Finally, if your request is approved, you’re going to have to report back on the outcomes of the spending.”
Twelve requests received outright approval for the proposed budget, including $47,400 to improve Internet bandwidth and $274,000 to replace failing technology in the theater. “The average daily peak Web usage on campus is now at our capacity. We have to upgrade,” Campbell said. “Our film/digital media program is growing and the college partners with the City of Shoreline on the Shoreline Film Office. This is an investment in our students and our community.”
Another 16 proposals were approved with either modifications to the plan or the funding. Those requests include $226,000 for more advisors for students and $56,400 for a career-navigator position in the Workforce programs division. “All the data show that advising leads to better outcomes for students,” Campbell said. “We have career navigator in several programs that are hugely successful in helping students complete the degree or certificate and then help them get good jobs. This request is a little different, adding a navigator to work closely with students and Workforce staff to raise career awareness.”
More than 20 proposals didn’t receive funding or were withdrawn.
“This is a process that is evolving,” Campbell said. “Even the plans that weren’t approved added to our understanding of how to adjust both the request and the process.”
Campbell also noted that a recent directive from Gov. Inslee’s office for all state agencies to predict and submit the impacts of a 15 percent budget cut doesn’t mean it is time to hit the panic button. In a letter to employees, Campbell said such budget exercises became common during the recession, but rarely came to pass as initially put forth. In the letter, he urged employees to stay engaged with the political process and remind lawmakers that community college graduates add to the economy, not take away from it.