By JOE GIDDENS and NICHOLAS TRUJILLO
Over the course of three years, Pima Community College has planned to have $15 million of net reduction, by raising tuition $1 a credit hour, getting state funding and cutting positions in hopes to recover from falling enrollment numbers.
The college having low enrollment numbers is an indirect effect of the economy doing well, according to Executive Vice Chancellor David Bea. Chancellor Lee Lambert also partially attributes low enrollment to demographics changes.
“Population drives the enrollment because it affects the availability of potential individuals … (The high school age range) you’ll see that that group is not necessarily getting larger fact in some cases it’s a underwater.” Further. “Tucson is not holding onto its 25 to 35 year olds. If you look at Pima’s demographic here, we’re about 27-28 years old. There’s less of them in this community.”
“When the economy gets worse, our enrollment goes up,” said Bea. “When the economy gets better and people have jobs . . . they’re working and they’re not going to school.”
However, the economy isn’t the only factor when it comes to how much the college generates in revenue and spends. Factors like enrollment and taxes are the bigger pieces of the pie.
Much of the budget woes stems from a 2015 decision by Governor Doug Ducey and the state legislature. During Ducey’s first year as governor the decision was made to cut all state funding to Pima and Maricopa Community Colleges. In 2009, Pima received around $20 million annually from the state government, that consistently dropped annually to zero by 2015.
“At one point, Pima and Maricopa (colleges) weren’t even listed in terms of the budget appropriations.” said David Bea.” Part of it is lobbying to get back in and even if it’s back in at zero.” ”
However, to get an actual number that will help PCC, the school has decided to show off its’ centers of excellence while lobbying. Workforce programs, occupational programs and Career Technical Education programs are all major keys, since that’s what the state legislators love to see, according to Bea.
To be effective in those types of classes, state of the art equipment is vital to keep up with other schools.
“It’s showing them, we could provide this much more education in nursing or aviation if we had better facilities that could handle more students, cause were pretty space constrained.” Bea said.
The state legislators like these classes because in the end, it brings more money into the economy once they transition to the workforce.
“They want to know that there’s going to be a bang for the buck,” Bea said.
1 to 50 ratio
While acquiring state tax would solve a lot of problems, the college would still be left with too many full-time instructors per student.
According to Bea, his team looked at peer colleges and found that for the most part, colleges had a ratio that was close to one full-time instructor per 50 students. However, this doesn’t mean that one class with one instructor will have 50 students at a single time.
But firing people isn’t the first thing that the college wants to tackle.
“As faculty had been retiring, we’ve been dropping down the number of full-time faculty that we hire,” Bea said.
This means that other faculty may have to absorb a larger workload. But having a job with slightly more work is better than having no job at all.
“The reality is that we’ve got to continue to learn how to do things more efficiently and we have, we have plenty of inefficiency here and we have inefficient processes and we don’t utilize our systems as well as we should,” Bea said.
While eliminating through attrition only hurts a few, the college may also have to cut live positions within the college.
The college will do this by a method they have released yet. However, Bea suggested a method where a certain position that has 10 slots will be cut to eight and those in the 10 slots will apply.
Bea also said that it’s just an idea and the method could change come the meeting on April 13, when the college shuts down to talk about these cuts.