Despite enrollment, RCCC funding likely down

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Gov. Bev Perdueís proposed budget slashes 4.9 percent of funding from the stateís community college system, cuts that Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President Carol Spalding says could pose challenges as enrollment continues to climb.
ěWe were disappointed in the governorís budget because it did not fund the growth that we are experiencing,î Spalding said.
Student enrollment grew nearly 4.6 percent this fall, with the total student headcount exceeding 7,300 this year. This is the second consecutive year the number of students attending Rowan-Cabarrus has reached a record level.
ěThe system is taking a huge cut just like everyone else,î Spalding said. ěWe thought we wouldnít take such a cut because we really feel like this is where the taxpayer gets its best value for the dollar and we want to make sure that we are there when people need us, which is right now on the job preparation side.î
Spalding said since recessionary spending began, the college started thinking about ways to prepare for future shortfalls.
ěWeíve really been thinking ahead. We cut our staff the first year I was here in 2009 and we never ramped back up knowing the budget situation was so serious,î she said. ěWhen you make a decision to hire someone, you donít want to lay them off the next year.î
Spalding said the college has dealt with the loss of the 23 full-time employees and escalating enrollment by increasing the number of adjunct faculty.
ěWe do not anticipate needing to have any additional reduction in force at this time,î she said.
Spalding said the college has also streamlined its operations.
ěThis is a very thin college, it doesnít have very much excess if any,î she said. ěWe are continually looking at what we do and how to improve it.î
The college has also strayed away from committing to long-term expenses.
ěWeíre looking to spend one- time money that has a positive effect on the bottom line later,î Spalding said.
The governorís proposed budget plan also could shift workerís compensation costs to the college, an expenditure that was previously covered by the state.
ěIt would need to be picked up by the county budget and that would be a huge problem ó of us and the county,î Spalding said.
Perdue also proposes a tuition increase of $5.50 per credit hour, which would amount to $176 more per year for full-time students.
Spalding said although that money will help the college sustain and add courses, it does impact students.
Pell grants would cover the additional costs for economically disadvantaged students, but those who arenít eligible for the grants will have to absorb the cost.
Spalding said the college will continue to follow the General Assemblyís budget talks and plan accordingly.
ěWe also raise a lot of private money, so weíre looking at how we can improve our situation both on the private and public sides and offer the courses that students need,î said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.