Closed for Business

by Katy Kappele

Horizon Reporter

You may have heard the economy is in trouble.  Whatcom Community College is no exception to the plague of budget cuts sweeping across the country.  Whatcom has received news of a 15 percent reduction to state funding, prompting money-saving changes across campus.

There is a state-mandated cut in wages equaling approximately $274,000, Whatcom’s president, Kathi Hiyane-Brown, said in an email.  Because of this reduction in allotted staff salaries, class sizes have been increased to conserve teaching time and keep salaries the same this year.  Hours have also been cut on certain services, such as the registration and financial aid desks.  There have been reductions to service hours in Entry and Advising and the cashier’s window.

The hours have been limited to Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and services will not be available on Fridays.

Hiyane-Brown said that tuition increases are expected to contribute as much as $672,000 to the school’s operating budget, assuming enrollment continues as in past trends.  According to the July 7 minutes for the meeting of the Board of Trustees, there will be at least a 12 percent increase in tuition for the next two years.

Because of the “essential role work study positions have on our campus,” Hiyane-Brown said, the most critical of these roles will be filled part-time with a new program called Work for Study.

Ray White, Whatcom’s vice president, said that in the past four years, 60 percent of the operating budget has been reduced to a mere 36 percent. This is one reason for the reduction in service hours across campus.  This will mean “larger classes and longer lines,” said White.

Fortunately, the budget committee has not cut any programs, although “the transition of credit-bearing programs to a self-support model is being seriously considered,” said Hiyane-Brown.  She said that this would enable the college to still offer high-cost, high-demand programs such as the massage therapy program.  However, these programs would be supported entirely by student fees and tuition, and would likely be more expensive for students.

In order to save money, efficiency standards around campus have changed.  As a result, the heating system in the Pavilion was replaced with a more energy-efficient model, among other changes.

The college has money for the new signs going up around campus because “capital funding is separate from our operating budget,” White said.  “We are given allocation to cover minor improvements.”  What this means is that the state gives the school money for improvements such as plumbing, new light fixtures, and the way-finding signs being installed around campus, which is separate from college funds that go toward tuition.

White said that the money for the Pavilion expansion comes mostly from existing student fees, and is a student-driven project that will not take place for several years.  No raises in tuition or state money will go into this project.

The closure of the Orca Bay Cafe in Heiner is unrelated, and it is expected to be open soon.

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