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Community colleges take double hit
Enrollment is soaring, budgets are based on last year's students, and budget cuts loom.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published August 16, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - Community colleges are facing a double whammy from impending spending cuts because their enrollment is soaring although their budgets are based on last year's attendance, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp acknowledged Wednesday.
Kottkamp met with community college presidents to discuss the broader issue of planning for enrollment growth over the next 10 years, but the discussion included current state revenue losses.
Budgets for universities and public schools are set according to enrollment estimates for the new school year, but the 28 community colleges get only enough money to pay for the students they had in 2006-07. They rely mainly on tuition to make up the difference.
Fall enrollment, though, is expected to increase by at least 10 percent in many urban areas, said Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia Community College in Orlando, who organized the meeting. He said many Floridians affected by the economic decline are enrolling to learn new skills.
"It's a double whammy for them, and I think that we recognize that," Kottkamp said. "We can't really make any decisions yet until we've looked at the entire budget picture."
Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in special session Sept. 18 to modify the state's $71-billion budget due to an estimated $1.5-billion shortfall in expected tax revenue for the fiscal year that began July 1 and the latter part of the last one.
Community colleges would lose $117-million and the State University System $232-million under a worst-case 10 percent scenario.
The universities have responded in part by freezing freshman enrollment, but the community college presidents have rejected that idea.
"Most of us are making severe, significant cuts to parts of the college that don't touch student access," Shugart said.
That includes eliminating a $600,000 television program with about a half-dozen staffers at Valencia, which delivered courses and other information on local cable systems.
Florida Community College in Jacksonville is planning to lay off up to 35 people in nonteaching jobs while Seminole Community College may have to delay opening a new campus for nursing and other health programs at Altamonte Springs.
Community college officials expect enrollment to continue growing during the next decade and have proposed $100-million annual increases in operating budgets, Shugart said. The colleges now are budgeted for nearly $1.2-billion.
That also would increase the state's funding share, which has grown only 29 percent compared to 50 percent for tuition over the last 10 years, Shugart said. Tuition now pays a third of the colleges' costs. The presidents' plan would reduce that reliance to a fourth, Shugart said.