AACC: Community colleges pay off

Community colleges “launch” students, “relaunch” workers who need new skills and strengthen local economies, concludes a policy brief by the American Association of Community Colleges. Yet community colleges receive 20 percent of state funding for higher education, despite serving 43 percent of undergraduates.

In the  last decade, as states have cut higher education funding, community colleges have cut per-student operating budgets — the only higher ed sector to control costs, the policy brief notes.

Investing in community colleges pays off for students and society, Christopher Mullin, co-author of Community College Contributions, told Community College Times. Graduates with certificates and associate degrees earn more and pay more taxes. “Upskill” training helps workers move up and their employers stay competitive.

Columbus State Community College in Ohio trains workers to become supervisors, the brief notes.

Indian River State College in Florida trains workers for the growing high-tech and energy industries.

In South Carolina, Aiken Technical College trains nuclear technicians for nearby power plants.

A small business development center at Lansing Community College in Michigan provided counseling and job training that resulted in “38 new businesses and $16.5 million in total new capital,” according to AACC. Twenty percent of small business development centers are located on community college campuses.

Some community colleges are developing economic impact studies to show how their contributions to economic growth. Broward College in Florida produces a $1.40 return on every $1 invested by taxpayers, the college’s report claims.

Most states will spend more on higher ed

Thirty states will spend more on high er education in the current fiscal year, but overall state spending is down 0.4 percent, according to an annual survey by Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Since fiscal 2008, state higher education spending has declined nearly 11 percent.

New Mexico will spend a measly 0.1 percent percent more: energy-rich Wyoming will boost spending by nearly 14 percent. But Florida will cut higher ed spending by 8 percent.

In California, where state money for colleges fell nearly 6 percent from the year before, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has proposed increasing state funds for the public-college systems by 4 percent to 6 percent in the coming fiscal year. As in many other states, that proposal came with the expectation that state colleges will keep tuition flat and increase their efficiency in producing graduates.

During the past five years, more than a dozen states have cut college funding by more than 20 percent. Arizona (37 percent) and New Hampshire (36 percent) have cut the most.

“Barring a further downturn in the economy, the relatively small overall change … suggests that higher education may be at the beginning stages of a climb out of the fiscal trough caused by the last recession,” says a news release accompanying the survey data.

However, a new report from Moody’s Investors Services predicts tough times for higher education with stagnant state funding, student resistance to tuition increases and a declining number of high school graduates.

States cut higher ed funds by 7.6%

States spent 7.6% less on higher education in 2011-12 than in the previous year, concludes the annual Grapevine study by the Illinois State University Center for the Study of Higher Education and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. The declines were “driven heavily by the depletion” of federal stimulus funds, notes Inside Higher Ed.

. . . all but nine states experienced one-year declines from their 2010-11 totals. The 41 states that cut their spending did so by widely varying proportions, from as little as 1 percent (in Indiana and North Carolina) to as much as 41 percent (New Hampshire), with a full third seeing double-digit drops.

. . .  Twenty-nine states allocated less money to higher education in 2011-12 than they did in 2006-7, and nearly half — 14 — provided at least 10 percent less than they did five years ago.

The Grapevine study does not analyze funding per student and is not adjusted for inflation.

Regardless, the cutbacks in state funding come at a time when many states — and the country as a whole — are striving to increase the number of people they educate and the number of degrees, certificates and other credentials they award.

California, which cut funding by 11.8 percent, has restricted enrollment at community colleges and California State University campuses. Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to put a temporary sales and income tax increase on the November ballot to fund K-12 and community colleges, but the plan is a “hard sell” even with the education community, writes John Fensterwald, my former colleague, on Educated Guess.

As funding shrinks, tuition rises

Community colleges and public universities will raise tuition to cope with shrinking budgets, according to a report by the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama. Enrollment will continue to rise, predicts Professor Stephen Katsinas. State and federal aid will plateau or decline.

“All of our nation’s public access institutions — that’s the flagship universities, regional universities and community colleges — are really hurting right now,” Katsinas said. “Until the state revenue picture improves, we’re looking at increased demands juxtaposed with decreased resources.”

The research team surveyed community college leaders nationwide. Many said high unemployment rates have drained job retraining funds and state scholarship aid isn’t keeping up with need. States with fast-growing minority populations reported the greatest threat to college access.

“With Pell Grant cuts at the federal level, tuition rising at more than double the inflation rate and state-funded student aid stagnating in most states, students and their families are being squeezed,” the report reads. “And the significant reductions in state operating budgets are simultaneously challenging the public higher education access institutions.

Tuition will go up by 5.6 percent at community colleges, which face 4.2 percent cuts in state funding, the report predicts.

Nearly all community college leaders said funds are needed to expand allied health, engineering and information technology programs that lead to high-wage jobs. However, colleges are under increasing pressure to offer or expand short-term, non-credit job training to get laid-off workers back into the labor market quickly.

States cut higher ed funding

Nearly half of states have cut higher education funding or plan to do so. That’s forced  community colleges to cut spending and raise tuition, reports Community College Times, excerpting the Community College Journal.

Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) planned for a 5 percent reduction in state funding in 2010-11 but was hit by a cut of $13 million, more than 7.5 percent.

Leaders reportedly are bracing for an additional $18.2 million cut this fall, leaving critics to wonder just how much more the district can take.

“At some point, you can’t throw another cup of water in the gumbo and expect to feed everyone at the table,” says Ed DesPlas, executive vice chancellor of business affairs.

Nationwide, states fund a third of community college budgets, but that’s slipping. DCCCD used to get 32 percent of its budget from Texas state funds; now it’s 25 percent.

In Arizona, a paltry 10 percent of community college funding is derived from the state—and administrators project that number might shrink even further this year.

“It looks like we will be down to about 1 percent of our total budget,” says Clint Ewell, vice president for finance and administrative services at Yavapai College (YC).

Community college leaders aren’t expecting things to improve any time soon.

“Whatever hand you’re dealt, you don’t go into a fetal position and complain,” says Robert Breuder, president of the College of DuPage (COD), outside of Chicago. “You deal with it.”

Breuder’s solvency plan includes raising tuition, growing enrollment and cutting expenses   by replacing full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts. In addition, the college has saved more than $1 million by increasing faculty workloads and eliminating faculty release time for special assignments. Next up: getting staff to pay more for health insurance.