As colleges plan for next year, many are facing unprecedented budgetary shortfalls. Already cut "to the bone," as one official told the Texas Tribune, in an article by Reeve Hamilton, schools are trapped with few palatable options.
One reason next year will be especially difficult entails the new technique of measuring enrollment for the funding formula. The metric is now annualized instead of relying on one "base year" in the biennium.
Simply put, if your college grew prodigiously things might not be so bad. However, if your school only grew slightly or declined in contact hours, trouble may be ahead as we enter the "out year" of the biennium. The Legislature doesn't meet again until January 2013, unless there is a Special Session—an unlikely prospect at this point.
It's clear that rural schools are in the deepest trouble. The Tribune piece profiles Western Texas College and South Plains College. Each has a particular set of problems and is vital to its region.
An extra dilemma facing institutions in rural areas is the paucity of part time faculty members who qualify to teach under SACS accreditation criteria. The article notes that there are two individuals in Snyder, home of Western Texas College, qualified to teach public speaking. One of them is the college's president.
USA Today also recently featured a front page piece by Mary Beth Marklein (March 20) about program cuts at the nation's community colleges. The article reports that Texarkana College is planning to eliminate its athletic programs, affecting about 70 student athletes. School officials are looking for private donors.
The article states that personal enrichment courses are especially vulnerable. A California educator says, "The whole philosophy that people should be learning throughout their life has kind of been thrown out."