Austin Community College expects to lose about $10 million in state funding for next year’s budget, said Neil Vickers, ACC’s associate vice president of finance and budget. This could mean increased class sizes and higher tuition for students.
“The state budget is still a little in flux,” he said. “While the Legislature has technically passed its budget, it has not passed key bills that affect higher education.” That said, the college anticipates losing “just over 15 percent,” or about $10 million of its current $60 million in state funding.
The college has been preparing for this with backup plans to compensate for a range of cuts. While there was nothing the school could have done to weather 2012 consequence-free, “the steps we started taking two years ago will greatly minimize the impact of this,” Vickers said.
“Those include reductions in technology outlay, reductions in facility build-outs, minimal increases in staffing and salaries,” he said. “We’ve held our belts in the last couple of years.”
As the college develops its 2012 budget, administrators have collected feedback and requests from managers, directors and deans. The board of trustees, along with the president, are scheduled to adopt the budget in July.
“Conditions from the state continue to worsen for ACC,” Ben Ferrell, executive vice president of finance and administration, told the board of trustees in April.
On June 6, the college’s board of trustees reviewed updated budget information. According to budget documents, the board of trustees “does not intend to eliminate positions or impose furloughs, which would be counterproductive to meeting the growth demands of the region.”
The district will not raise property taxes, as “tax rolls are projected to be flat and the rate is capped.” The documents offer several options for making up for the lost funds.
The biggest way to raise revenue is to increase tuition by $15 per credit hour, which would generate $13.25 million. The college has phased in tuition increases by $5 per credit hour increments during the past few semesters.
On July 5, the board is expected to increase tuition again by $5 per credit hour for the spring semester. “No one likes increasing tuition, but the board went many years without increasing it,” Vickers said. “We are going to continue to meet the needs of students.”
From there, the school may make up the difference by: raising out-of-district tuition ($4.08 million in savings); restructuring lab fees ($4 million); and increasing the average class size by one student per class ($3.5 million). ACC has other options on the table as well, such as reducing administrative spending by 10 percent, reviewing courses with low enrollment and across-the-board reductions in noninstructional/student services budgets.
Reductions are not news to college officials who have watched state funding dwindle during the 2000s, Vickers said. “What we are seeing is the continuation of a longer-term trend,” he said. “State funding has gone from 41 percent [of the school’s budget] in 2001 to 23 percent in 2011. “Over the last two years, the state has cut funding mid-year.”
The cuts arrive at a time when the college’s services are in great demand, he said. “We are the primary provider of training and retraining in the workforce,” he said. “With unemployment concerns and enrollment growing so much, we are where the people go when they need new skills.”
Alexis Patterson, media relations coordinator, said ACC has about 45,000 students taking credited courses and another 15,000 taking non-credit adult education classes.