Community colleges in Texas are contending with current and prospective budget cuts in a variety of ways. For instance, some schools enjoy a healthy property tax base, and may be able to raise rates to partially plug the hole left by the state. Many elected college district trustees, however, made the same no-new-taxes pledge that House and Senate candidates made. To stretch revenue for new faculty needs, some schools have an ample supply of qualified adjunct instructors, while others do not. Raising student tuition means lower enrollment, of course. It's complicated.
All colleges are making very painful decisions these days.
At Tyler Junior College, the proposed cuts in the House version of the appropriations bill are beginning to sink in, according to a recent article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph by Emily Guevara.
We won't know the true impact for the next biennium until spring or summer, but this particular school is facing a dire scenario.
Here's a concise look at the numbers, according to the article:
House Bill 1 proposes to cut TJC's funding by a combined $7.1 million in two areas: employee benefits and the instructional formula.
In addition, the bill does not account for almost $8 million worth of enrollment growth.
[TJC President Mike] Metke said he understands community colleges have to take their share of the state's shortfall, but he wants them to be treated the same as the four-year institutions.
"We're facing the biggest cuts of the higher ed family," he said. "...It's devastating to what we're doing here at the college."
As proposed, the bill would cut the state's funding of employee health insurance to TJC by $5.9 million or 86 percent.
This would take state funding in that area from $6.8 million to $934,200, according to data provided by the college.
The state would cut funding of the employee retirement match by $1.1 million or 34 percent.
This would take that funding from $3.3 million to roughly $2.2 million.
Formula funding, based primarily on student contact hours, would drop to $36.2 million, which represents a $127,000 cut.
Add to that almost $8 million in unfunded enrollment growth and the college could deal with, in effect, about a $15 million reduction.
That's almost one third less funding than it received last biennium, college data shows.
How will they find the money?
In order to cover the proposed cuts, TJC has a few options. It could raise tuition, cut programs and/or personnel, or raise property taxes.
Metke and board President Clint Roxburgh have said raising property taxes is out of the question because the board promised taxpayers it wouldn't after raising them last year.
To make up for the cuts with a tuition increase alone, the college would have to almost double tuition for in-district students, Chief Financial Officer Sarah Van Cleef said.
That would mean raising it from $28 per credit hour to $55 per credit hour.
To make up for the state cuts and unfunded enrollment growth, the college would have to almost triple tuition raising it from $28 per credit hour to $83 per credit hour.
Dealing with the cuts through property taxes would require a 50 percent increase. The college would have to double the property tax rate to deal with the cuts and unfunded enrollment growth.
Metke said he presented the information to let the public know the situation. He said legislators want to hear from their constituents and urged people to speak up about their priorities.
These cuts represent only how TJC could be affected by the budget shortfall. Ms. Van Cleef said additional cuts such as those to grant programs and the state-funded insurance program likely will impact students and employees.
TJC Provost Butch Hayes said the cuts have the potential to negatively impact instruction.