As enrollment drops, SCC faces layoffs, cuts

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:54am

For months, Shoreline Community College faculty, staff and students have been talking, wondering and worrying about their jobs and the college’s budget, programs and overall future.

The college — hit by declining enrollment, state funding changes and payments on a new student union building — will downsize. This month, it announced staff layoffs and other cuts that aim to save about $1.7 million for the 2007-08 school year, which starts in July.

Declining enrollment

Shoreline’s enrollment has declined steadily since the 2002-03 school year.

Hard hit by the opening of Cascadia Community College in Bothell in 2000, the college competes with several community colleges packed close together. It’s also feeling the pinch of demographic changes in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, where fewer high school students are emerging from the school system.

Enrollment drops have cost the college tuition money, but now the state has delivered another blow.

Because Shoreline couldn’t meet its enrollment targets for three years running, the state will likely “rebase” it. With lower enrollment targets, the college will get less money.

Depending on spring enrollment, its operating budget will lose between $1.1 and $1.2 million for the 2007-08 school year, which starts July 1.

The college’s operating budget — or general fund — is about $37 million. The budget pays for salaries and other ongoing expenses.

New student union building

Another hit to the college’s pocketbook comes from payments for the new student union building the college is constructing to replace the current building, the PUB.

“The lion’s share of cuts are tied to rebasing,” said Lee Lambert, college president. “A smaller portion are tied to the PUB.”

The project is paid for partly by a loan and those payments come from the operating budget. The rest is funded by student fees.

This is the first year payments are due, with an average annual payment of about $1.1 million. The $15 million loan will take 20 years to pay off.

Cutting staff

The college will cut two administrative positions, 11 classified positions and six faculty positions. That amounts to about 3.3 percent of administrative positions, 4.6 percent of classified and 4 percent of faculty positions.

Lambert estimated that with vacancies and other factors, three to four classified employees could lose their jobs.

As for faculty, two tenure-track professors in math and criminal justice could lose their jobs. The college plans to offer voluntary retirement incentives to other professors to avoid layoffs.

The other faculty positions, in advising/counseling, English, music and art, will require no Reduction in Force, or RIF — the formal term for layoffs. Some of positions were vacant.

In fall 2006, there was a Reduction in Force of four faculty members.

In addition, the administrative department will reorganize this spring, meaning salary cuts for some and shifting positions for others. More layoffs in administration are possible.

Personnel are absorbing most of the cuts, but reductions also will be made to services. For example, diversity, student success and high school programs will lose $3,000 and international programs’ goods and services will lose $5,000.


The loss of faculty affects the kinds of classes that can be offered, said Judy Yu, director of communications for the college. The college evaluated which programs could sustain cuts, and most are robust, she said. But the criminal justice program, for example, will go on with one professor rather than two.

“That will have a pretty significant impact on the program,” she said.

The cuts won’t affect class sizes, which are small to begin with, Yu said.

At the classified level, when one position is cut, others have to do more work, said Karen Toreson, president of the college’s Federation of Teachers. The college is interconnected and faculty rely on classified help, she said. Other faculty declined to talk to the Enterprise.

Student viewpoints

“I think most students are either unaware of the budget situation or don’t care,” said Matt Fitzsimmons, president of the college’s Student Body Association. Many students are only at the school for two years, he added. “I think the students who are more active on campus take a strong interest in this.”

Student Miko Calivo is taking the quarter off, but comes to campus every day. He said many students are talking about the budget, and his professors have discussed it in class.

Faculty layoffs are the kind of thing many students aren’t aware of until they notice teachers starting to disappear, he said.

A lot of students also are asking why the college is building a new student union building when it’s laying people off, Calivo said.

The former building, called the Pagoda Union Building, or PUB, was a two-story, 39,000-square-foot building built in the 1960s. The new PUB will be a 52,000-square-foot, three-story structure with a glass atrium, more windows and a courtyard.

“To provide a world-class experience for our students, we must balance a number of factors,” said Lambert. “One is our people, having employees to deliver the programs and services but equally important is what facilities do we need to provide that learning experience.”

Students voted to build the new PUB and approved an additional fee to help fund it. The state doesn’t fund construction of student union buildings, so the college took out a loan paid back through the operating budget, Lambert said.

State funding

Lambert said that the way community colleges are funded needs to be reexamined.

“The current funding raises the question of whether we can sustain our ability to serve our students and community,” he said.

At Shoreline, as at other community colleges, state funding and student tuition pay for only half of the college’s operating expenses.

The college is not fully reimbursed for all the students it serves. Students in adult basic education programs, for example, pay only $25 for the service but are not fully funded by the state, Lambert said.

The big picture

Toreson, Federation of Teachers president, said the college is still a strong school, in spite of funding cuts.

“(It) has excellent faculty and a commitment to student success,” she said. “We have strong transfer programs, professional programs. We still have all those things regardless of what the budget situation is.”

People can think that budget issues mean a system is falling apart, when that’s not the case, she said.

When asked to address rumors that the future of the college was in jeopardy, Lambert said that when Cascadia opened in 2000, Shoreline lost 200 to 300 full-time equivalent students at their Canyon Park facility in Northshore, which had to close.

External forces like bringing a new college into the system and cutting the college’s service district are forcing it to react, he said.

“We are adjusting to external conditions and you have to look at how well your operation will function with that reduction,” he said. “That is what we’ve been doing, aligning our expenditures with our revenues.”

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