Budget challenges caused by a lack of state funding, and a voter-rejected property tax override bid in November 2013 are reasons attributed to the Coconino Community College District Governing Board’s Feb. 25 decision to eliminate one of the College’s three core missions: Community and Corporate Learning (CCL).

 

The CCC District Governing Board voted unanimously to implement a Financial Austerity Plan, starting July 1.


The Community and Corporate Learning Division’s primary function was to help local companies and their employees through custom training and development. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will also be eliminated as one of the cost saving measures. It is estimated that CCC’s annual impact on the Coconino County economy is more than $305 million.

 

“Our communities are putting forth a significant effort to strengthen the economic vitality of the region and the loss of these programs and services will have substantial impact on that effort,” said Monica Baker, CCC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education.

 

District Governing Board Chairman Patrick Hurley said, “Over the past few years the Governing Board has made many changes to insure the viability of CCC. There is no clear cut, single solution to the financial dilemma we face. As a result of the override failure, we have once again found it necessary to take a serious look at the College’s position. The Board has spent many long hours over the past few months scrutinizing data and discussing the best course to take for the future of CCC. After examining the data and the many possible scenarios, we are confident we have chosen the ‘lesser of evils’. These were not easy choices for the Board.”

 

In addition, northern Coconino County will also feel the impact of cuts with the conversion of the Page campus to an instructional site. Converting the campus to an instructional site will impact instructional delivery, hours of operation, services, and the classes offered to northern Coconino County.


“It is the District Governing Board’s responsibility to insure that the sustainability of the College is priority and that we continue to serve Coconino County as a district,” said CCC President Dr. Leah L. Bornstein. “They have had to make extremely tough decisions to achieve necessary results. The Financial Austerity Plan is necessary to identify time and resources the College needs to solidify the future.”


Speculation from the Page community that the Board was considering closing the Page campus and strong support shown at the meeting assisted board members who made the decision to convert the campus into an instructional site rather than close it.


Converting the Page campus to an instructional site will drastically reduce the number of classes offered. CCC may eliminate all full-time positions in Page, opting for part-time staff members charged with operating the scaled down instructional site.


“Some classes will still be offered based on demand, and there will be a greater reliance on interactive television and online offerings for instructional delivery, said Dr. Russ Rothamer, CCC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The commitment to the dual enrollment program where high school students can earn college credits at CCC while still attending high school will continue.”


Director of Student Affairs Veronica Hipolito said, “Approximately 25 percent of CCC’s student total population is Native American. In Page, well over 50 percent of the students attending classes at the former Page campus are Native American. And unlike the Williams campus that was closed in 2013, students must now drive two hours to attend classes in Flagstaff, denying access to higher education for many.”


Another program affected that will have a county-wide impact is the reduction of CCC’s popular nursing program, which will be reduced in half. The program will shrink from 40 to 20 graduates per year. CCC’s nursing program has consistently been recognized for excellence based on the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX) pass rates, consistently ranking among the highest of all community colleges in the state with an average pass rate of nearly 90 percent since 2007. The CCC nursing program has also been lauded for its nearly 100 percent employment placement rate.


”None of these options are without serious ramifications for students, employees, and our community,” District Governing Board Chairman Hurley said. “CCC finds itself in this position NOT due to financial negligence but to a structural deficit due to the extremely low property tax rate that has existed since the College was established. The defunding of community colleges by the State has highlighted the devastatingly low County property tax support to the College and uncovered how severe this structural deficit is for CCC.”


The latest round of cuts, including the reduction of the Page campus and revenue generation efforts are part of the College’s Financial Austerity Plan and are in addition to cuts and revenue generation efforts that began when the College lost half of its state appropriations or $3 million beginning in fiscal year 2008/2009 when the recession began. Over a three-year period, the College created a “Financial Sustainability Plan” of both revenue and expense options to bridge the gap.


Based on that plan, the College increased tuition by an additional $13 per credit hour to increase revenues by $1 million. In addition, the College cut $2 million in programs and services including 25 full-time equivalent positions. Despite these measures, the College continues to have a structural deficit which means that expenses outpace revenues from year to year. The gap between revenues and expenditures is nearly 7 percent of the College’s General Fund Budget. The override special election in 2013 that was rejected by a majority of Coconino County voters would have filled the funding gaps for the next seven years.


In total the Financial Austerity Plan, which will begin on July 1, 2014, will eliminate a $1.3 million funding gap with two-thirds of the gap filled from budget cuts and one-third from revenue generation. Before the Community and Corporate Learning Division elimination the College had three core missions: Arts and Sciences transfer/transition programs, Career and Technical Education, and Community and Corporate Learning.


The Financial Austerity Plan calls for the elimination of an additional 15 full time jobs; 10 percent of CCC’s full- time workforce.


“While it may be difficult for the community, our students and our employees to understand, the cuts and revenue generation initiatives are not designed to address our short term needs but rather the sustainability of the institution over the next seven years,” said Vice President of Business and Administrative Services Jami Van Ess.

 

Other programs and services that will be affected by the Financial Austerity Plan include:


• Elimination of the Early Childhood certificate and Education Degree
• Elimination of selected vacant positions
• Elimination of the Dance Degree program
• The reorganization of the Academic Affairs Division

 

The plan also calls for a revenue generation component of $431,000 which will increase tuition by $2 per credit hour and implement a differential tuition system. Differential tuition rolls in class fees and increases tuition for higher cost programs. Differential tuition was recommended by the Citizen’s Review Panel, a group of community leaders who were asked to serve when the College District Governing Board was considering sustainability options, including the unsuccessful 2013 special election override. Other revenue generating initiatives include:

 

• Eliminating the plateau program: Currently students pay for all credits up to 15 and after 18. The Financial Austerity Plan would eliminate the plateau program.
• Implementation of a credit card convenience fee
• Implementation of a student “no show” fee
• Increase student and employee parking fees


“While it is our responsibility as elected officials to insure the fiscal health of the institution, we recognize the impact of our decision on people – the dedicated employees, the hard working students and our supportive community members,” said District Governing Board Vice Chair/Secretary Patricia Garcia.

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