The Pullman branch of Spokane Falls Community College won’t be shutting down at the end of the semester as many had feared.
Just how long it will stay open, however, remains to be seen.
SFCC Vice President of Learning Jim Minkler came under fire Tuesday from worried students during a meeting at Gladish Cultural and Community Center, where the college’s Pullman branch holds classes. Minkler was able to partially put to rest some of the worries when he told students the branch would remain open for the 2016-17 school year – but for how long after that he couldn’t say. The meeting came two weeks after students got word the college was considering shuttering its Pullman branch.
While classes will continue at the branch for at least another year, it appears that no more students will be accepted into the Pullman program for the time being.
“I heard you say we’re not shutting down, but our office has been told not to process any new applications, and so that feels like we’re being shut down,” instructor Dyan Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said many students who have applied to start at the branch this fall have not been notified they won’t be able to take classes.
“If we’re not processing applications, we’re not getting new students, which means we’re not going to fill any classes, which means we shut down,” Bledsoe said.
Counselor Della Blahak agreed. She said every application received and put on hold is a student lost.
“They’re going to go elsewhere,” Blahak said.
Minkler said if SFCC eliminates the Pullman branch it must allow students currently enrolled a chance to complete their studies. A handout indicated Whitman County students could register for online courses or courses at SFCC’s Spokane campus.
“What does that mean for prospective students, students that aren’t registered yet? I don’t know,” Minkler said.
Other staff chimed in and made it clear it won’t be as easy for the Pullman branch to recharge its enrollment as it is for the main campus in Spokane.
Minkler continued to explain to the sea of students, faculty, Gladish board members and concerned community members how cutting back in Pullman is beneficial for the college as a whole, because it increases the number of full-time equivalent students in Spokane. He said once the college has made its way out of its financial hole, money from increased enrollment would help restore classes at the Pullman campus.
“We are operating in the black. If we are part of a bigger body, why would you cut off the healthy part?” Bledsoe asked. “We’ve been charged with growing this campus and now that’s being cut off.”
Economics teacher Khaliela Wright said she is concerned that no one has seen a budget from the school.
“Debbie Edwards, our manager here, has requested a budget for three years. To me that is concerning – you can’t make a good decision on sound numbers if you don’t know what those numbers are. That’s what I tell my students all the time,” she said.
Minkler said a budget will be approved July 1 and more unknowns will be answered.
While enrolled students know they have a place for the meantime, the same can’t be said for the college’s staff and instructors.
The Daily News asked six instructors and staff at the college if they felt they would have jobs to return to in the fall. None replied confidently or said yes.
Minkler said he doesn’t know how many cuts would be made, if any, but he did note the former assistant dean position, last occupied by Billy Potter, would not be filled.
He said in the 1960s the college was chartered to offer education to six counties, one of which is Whitman County.
“We are charged to make sure we deliver services to all those square miles, so there will be no cessation of services by Spokane Falls Community College to Whitman County,” Minkler said. “But we may need to reduce operation in some ways.”
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