The state budget cuts community colleges have had to sustain over the past several years have been sobering, but February’s news of cuts have been downright devastating.
If you’ve been reading, watching or listening to the news, you are familiar with the bleak headlines.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the news of the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis, I urge you to be observant now.
Here’s what you need to know:
Community colleges are facing massive cuts that we were not expecting. The cause is two-fold: the state did not generate the amount of money it expected from property tax revenues and college enrollment fees.
Community colleges now face an additional $149 million in cuts. At MJSC, we expected to feel the pinch of less than $300,000 in reductions, but this figure has now ballooned to $1.7 million in cuts to MSJC alone. With the unanticipated revenue shortfall due to property tax and enrollment fees, MSJC is now facing a $2.7 million reduction for this fiscal year. In 2012-2013, MSJC faces another potential $5.2 million in cuts if the November tax initiatives do not pass.
California is entering its fifth consecutive year of dramatic funding cuts to higher education. MJSC has experienced over $8 million dollars in cuts during the previous four years.
There appear to be slow signs of economic improvement across the state. For instance, the state’s deficit has shrunk from $24 billion dollars a couple of years ago to $9.2 billion. Still, analysts estimate that we won’t start seeing a real recovery until 2017.
California Governor Jerry Brown is proposing bridging the state budget shortfall through a variety of means, among them is the tax initiative for the November 2012 ballot.
The state is working on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1st, on the assumption that the tax initiative will pass. The initiative will not go before voters until four months AFTER the start of the fiscal year. This leaves us in a difficult situation to react if the initiative fails.
Across California, students face a number of factors related to the state budget: enrollment fees that will go up to $46 per unit this summer and fewer classes to choose from. The funding cuts translate to 150 fewer students being served at MSJC. The already sparse summer class offerings will be scaled back even more. Classes for Fall and Spring could be reduced.
Employees face challenges: At MSJC, many employees have experienced pay freezes. With the level of these recent funding reductions, we now must work with union groups to find ways to address the substantial cuts the state is levying on us. We must consider hiring freezes and other cost-saving measures. We continue to look at many options in order to maintain high quality services and preserve instruction for our students.
Whatever the future holds, nothing will change the fact that Mt. San Jacinto College is a quality institution. Nothing will change the core of our mission. We will continue to keep our eyes on the students as our number one priority.
Also, please review the information offered by the Community College League. Its Budget Advocacy Action Center offers a break-down of the cuts each community college across the state faces: http://www.ccleague.net/february-surprise/