Friday, October 24, 2008
College officials say that although no final decisions or plans have been decided yet, it doesn’t look like any specific programs at AACC will suffer from recent state budget cuts.
On Oct. 15, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Board of Public Works announced a budget cut which has resulted in $1 million cut from Anne Arundel Community College’s operating budget.
The board is cutting approximately $350 million from Maryland’s budget and 8 percent will be cut from all community college aid. AACC officials are confident that recent cuts to state budget will not jeopardize students, faculty or staff.
“A million dollars is a lot of money,” said Vice President for Learning Resource Management, Melissa Beardmore. “I wouldn’t want to have to pay it myself but the college’s operating budget is over $100 million. So $1 million, in the scheme of things, we’ll manage.”
Linda Schulte, director of Public Relations and spokesperson for AACC President, Dr. Martha Smith, said that there are several ways the college leadership could manage reductions to the college’s operating budget.
“If we don’t fill the [empty] positions and we don’t add any tremendous increase in benefits or programs or anything like that, we can weather the first million dollar storm,” said Schulte.
According to the Human Resources office, the college is still currently advertising and filling positions. It is still unknown whether college officials will implement a hiring freeze.
While the college will survive the first round of cuts, there are many concerns that if the state and county revenues do not improve, community colleges may suffer more cuts in December; no one knows how much the next cuts might be.
“It’s a million dollars - for now- and there could be additional cuts – at least that’s what we’re hearing from the governor and the comptroller,” said Beardmore. “So it’s still a little early to tell.”
AACC officials are committed to making education affordable and accessible to students. Since 2006, tuition rates for county resident students have been $86 per credit hour.
Schulte says that the Board of Trustees is doing everything thing they can to avoid raising tuition rates.
“The Board of Trustees is very committed to affordability as one of our five mission mandates here,” said Schulte. “They’ve taken a long hard look at the million that we’re going to lose and they don’t think that’s going result in that. But if something else comes down the road, I can’t speak for what they’ll do.”
College representatives also fear a reduction in much needed renovation funding.
“Next year we’re on a list to get more funding to help with our library expansion as one of the capital projects,” said Schulte. “Well, you know, maybe the state looks at that and says we’re not going to fund capital projects at community colleges at all.
“But that’s just speculation at this point.”
The Andrew G. Truxal Library was built in 1968 and renovations are said to begin in fiscal year 2010.
The library’s plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electrical systems all need to be repaired or replaced.
According to the county’s capital budget and program, the library will be expanded by 31,260 GSF square feet and will also be updated to meet student needs. The renovation should be completed by 2013.
The capital budget will fund $21,300,000 million of the renovation but college officials are unsure how much the state will be able to contribute.
There are several ways the college might compensate for future budget cuts.
According to Schulte, business partnerships with companies seeking to train employees is
one way the college generates revenue.
Keeping enrollment rates high may also help the college compensate for the reduction in state contribution.
In 2007, AACC had an enrollment of 56,370 non-credit and credit students and with new programs such as WeekendYou, enrollment is steadily increasing.
Schulte says that the troubled economy may also increase enrollment.
“Historically, when times are tough, a lot of people come back to community college to either get a better career change or upgrade their skills because they want to keep their job,” said Schulte. “Growing the enrollment is another revenue producer and so that’s obviously at the heart of what we do.”
College officials will not know what the final fate of the college budget is until late December. Still, the administration and faculty are conscious of excessive and unnecessary spending.
“At present I have not heard about direct impact on faculty, but indirectly we are all att-empting to economize when possible, such as by being cautious with use of supplies and
other resources,” said professor Roy Carson, president of The Faculty Organization.
Despite the fear of future budget cuts, officials are confident that their leadership and community support will uphold the college through the economic downturn.
According to Schulte and Beardmore, the college’s first priority is students. When Dr. Martha Smith became the president of AACC in 1994, she declared that student success comes first. Beardmore said that AACC students should know that they are always first priority.
“The primary thing they should know is that the college’s mantra is ‘students first’ so whatever we do is with that in mind. That’s our guiding principle,” said Beardmore.
College officials are dedicated to keeping AACC affordable and accessible to all of their students; however, Schulte said that the school is affected by the troubled economy too.
“I think they [the students] just have to understand that there are economic pressures on us,” said Schulte. “This is $100 million business – the college is these days. It’s not a like a buck fifty, our budget is about 100 million. So, were committed to our mission and were committed to all of those things but at the end of the day, we have to pay our bills.”