Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Colleges struggle with cuts

Students walk to class at North Idaho College on Tuesday. Budget cuts could create longer lines and crowded classes. (Kathy Plonka)
Students walk to class at North Idaho College on Tuesday. Budget cuts could create longer lines and crowded classes. (Kathy Plonka)

Students face higher tuitions, fewer options for some classes

Frustration is what many community college students likely will experience this fall when newly enacted budget cuts take shape.

Students will face longer lines for counseling services, difficulty securing spots in high-demand classes, another tuition increase and crowded classrooms, college officials say.

Community Colleges of Spokane – Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane Community College and the Institute for Extended Learning – has to cut $4.35 million, or 5.1 percent, from its operating budget.

Meanwhile, North Idaho College will trim $1.3 million, or 9.2 percent, from its budget.

“I’m very concerned about the cuts, and impact on students,” said Gary Livingston, chancellor of CCS. “We will be taking the cuts across the board at all the institutions. Many of the cuts will come from not filling (vacant) positions.”

Although final numbers still are being calculated, the preliminary estimate is that CCS will leave dark 20 full-time and some part-time positions, officials said. Not filling open posts means fewer classes will be available. Since enrollment continues to climb, the competition to get into popular classes is high, college officials say. Anyone who waits beyond the first available date to register risks not getting into a class or being forced to take it at an inconvenient time.

“If the normal amount of math classes fills up, then we aren’t able to just open another class like in the past,” explained Linda McDermott, chief financial officer at CCS.

At North Idaho College, “We are seeing larger classes,” said John Martin, vice president for community relations. The classes offered at the preferred times – between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. – are filling up quickly, so “we have classes at less-than-optimum times that students need to consider.”

Area community colleges have seen enrollment increases between 5 percent and 20 percent, which officials say is typical during an economic downturn.

State-sanctioned tuition increases have helped colleges and universities stave off bigger budget cuts.

Community Colleges of Spokane will raise its tuition 7 percent for the second school year in a row. North Idaho College’s tuition rose 3.6 percent to 10 percent, depending on a student’s residency status, for the current school year. No decision has been made for 2010-’11; the college’s board of trustees soon will consider a tuition increase, but officials expect a smaller increase than in the current school year.

Meanwhile, the college has taken advantage of the increased revenue. “We have been able to hire more adjunct teachers and pay others for extra duties,” Martin said.

With a big budget cut looming, the small Idaho college plans to absorb the loss mainly by keeping the status quo.

“We’d like to start new programs, but that’s on hold for right now,” Martin said. “There are some building projects or improvements we’d like to do, the stuff we are usually able to do every year, but we are prioritizing those on a one-by-one basis.”

The North Idaho and Eastern Washington community colleges have so far been able to avoid program cuts, officials said.

Said CCS’ McDermott, “We’re all feeling the pressure, but we have not identified any particular programs that will be eliminated.”