College cutting classes by 20% | TahoeDailyTribune.com

College cutting classes by 20%

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Excluding the state budget crisis and escalating midyear cuts, Lake Tahoe Community College will still need to reduce its course offerings for next quarter by 106 classes, officials confirmed Thursday.

“It’s bizarre,” said Lori Gaskin, vice president of student instruction of the projected 20 percent cut. “We would be doing this anyway even if we didn’t have a budget crisis. We’ve been too successful in growing.”

The college has been experiencing growing pains by serving a projected 128 full-time equivalent students without funding. LTCC receives money for serving 1,784 full-time equivalent students, but if the amount goes over the limit, the college loses money.

Students considered full time take 12 units. Two part-time students can be considered one full time if each takes six units.

Cutting 106 courses — most of which experienced low enrollment — alleviates teacher expenses while decreasing the amount of students considered full time.

The reductions include six art, nine computer, six music, five counseling, six English and 18 physical education courses. Intermediate sign language, urban anthropology and introduction to construction trades also fell by the wayside.

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“We grew in the fall, grew in winter,” Gaskin said. “All of a sudden we’re looking at serving students and getting no reimbursement from the state. We’ve never been in this situation before. This is foreign to LTCC.”

D.J. Eastburn, associated student body president, said the course cutting won’t affect him but imagined there would be a ripple effect for other students and teachers.

“I think we should always offer more classes than the quarter before,” Eastburn said.

Gaskin said the coupling of more than $500,000 in midyear cuts stemming from estimated $36 billion budget shortfall, is like “adding salt to the wound.”

The college has taken steps to save money, including freezing funds and not hiring replacements for vacant positions, but as an additional $38 million in budget cuts was added to an already slashed $211 million systemwide, more steps will be taken.

The additional midyear cuts resulted from lower property tax collections, which Gov. Gray Davis announced in January, won’t be replaced by the state, said Scott Lay, director of state budget issues for the Community College League of California.

LTCC President Guy Lease believes the cuts to the community college system should not be as deep.

“Lake Tahoe Community College will lose an additional $101,517 on top of the midyear cuts proposed by the governor that are estimated to be as high as $600,000,” said LTCC President Guy Lease. “It seems that once again the community college system has become the easy target. Limiting access to higher education and vocational training is not the way to turn California’s economy around.”

Seven positions, open from retirement or other reasons, will not be filled. One includes a retiring switchboard operator who has been with the college since the time it operated from a motel on Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

In addition, marketing money for schedules, previously around $12,000, was cut in half. To save on mailing and printing costs, the spring schedule was slimmed down by 16 pages and will not be mailed. Instead a postcard will be sent notifying students that schedules are available at the college.

The spring schedule is already available on the Internet while hardcopies will arrive on campus next week, said Christina Proctor, spokeswoman for the college.

Gaskin estimated the course cutting will lower full-time equivalent students by 112. The college will save money on salaries and instructional equipment, but wanted to focus on bringing the student amount closer to a funded level.

Lease expects an uncertain but grim future for next school year.

“In the middle of a school year, there is little more we can do to cut our budget,” Lease said. “Next year looks much worse and this cut will only exacerbate a budget situation that will severely limit our ability to serve the educational needs of our community.”

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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