Two-year schools prep for cuts
Budget cuts have deep implications for the future of UH, but education budgets everywhere in the state are feeling the brunt as well, as community colleges face even greater challenges adjusting to the new legislation.
Every Thursday, The Daily Cougar will take an in-depth look at how proposed cuts to the state’s higher education allocation will affect the University and its future.
Feb. 17: Tier One initiative
Feb. 24: Staff terminations
March 3: Athletics programs
March 10: The role of community colleges
March 24: Public vs. private debate
March 31: Financial aid
Track this series and find expanded resources on thedailycougar.com/budgetcuts2011
Richard Carpenter, chancellor for Lone Star College, said that the drops in state funding have been a long-time trend.
“Ten years ago, 65 percent of our budget was from the state. Now, that number is down to 23.3 percent, and we’re looking at another proposed cut of 27 to 28 percent of what’s left,” Carpenter said. “That means cuts that are in the range of 19 to 20 million for the next biennial budget.”
To cope with the pending drops in funding, the school has looked hard at the school budget to see what savings they can make.
“We did things like administrative cuts, from 17 percent to 11 percent. And now, we’re looking at a hiring chill,” Carpenter said. “There are a lot of open positions in the college, but we have to make sure that every position is necessary.”
Other community colleges in Houston have encountered similar struggles.
The San Jacinto College System has been working hard to figure out how to accommodate all these possible changes, primarily by focusing on creating efficiencies and consolidating departments, said Teri Fowle, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communications with the system.
By combining the separate departments, the San Jacinto system has made some progress in facilitating the budget cuts.
“We looked at other models of education that creates efficiencies so we can operate,” Fowle said.
Over the past 4½ years, the system has grown by more than 6,000 students, so, Fowle said, the restructuring has been a constant issue.
“We’ve been trying to reorganize the college — instead of three different offices, make one. By combining these areas, we streamline the schools and reduce costs,” Fowle said.
But another important part of the picture comes from the transfer student population.
Many students go to community colleges in order to take care of prerequisite classes that can be applied toward a degree at a bigger university.
Fowle said the San Jacinto community college system is in charge of 30,000 students, nearly two-thirds of who are in core curriculum programs aimed at preparing students to transfer to other universities, including UH.
“Everyone’s suffering from the budget cuts,” said Fowle. “And the money has to come from somewhere. For universities, that usually means raising tuition.”
It costs around $1,300 for a semester at San Jacinto, and when compared with the cost it takes to go to a bigger university for one semester, Fowle said students are going to see the difference in cost.
“It’s hard to know, but we’re expecting an increase in enrollment,” Fowle said.
Though proper financial decisions are even more important in this economy, some students feel that you can’t put a price on the quality of education that can be found at the university level.
“Well, one thing is HCC is only a 2-year college and most people, like myself, want to further my education and receive a bachelor’s, and a possible master’s,” said Brittany Stroder, an education junior. “Despite the cost, HCC doesn’t have that opportunity,”
Tedric Breedlove, a finance junior, agreed.
“Image plays a big part,” Breedlove said. “People are willing to pay more to graduate from a renowned university, as opposed to a community college.”