College prepares budget for upcoming year

Columbia Gorge Community College will soon vote on its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and the new blueprint includes hiring four more faculty members.

On June 13, the CGCC Board of Education is expected to vote on a new annual budget totaling $9.4 million, which represents a slight decline over 2016-17’s $9.7 million budget.

“Our budget is very similar in size to last year's budget,” said Rick Leibowitz, regional director of CGCC’s Small Business Development Center.

In addition to hiring four new instructors, the college plans to focus resources on increasing enrollment, recruiting new students, and enhancing completion rates for degrees and certificates, which currently stands at around 25 percent.

Members of the CGCC budget committee, which was chaired by Dan Ericksen, a local orchardist, approved the budget proposal on April 25.

“We were diligent in ensuring that there would be no cuts to instruction or student services,” Leibowitz said. “Both of those areas increased since the last budget year.”

The prioritization of efforts to rebuild enrollment stems from the fact that CGCC enrollment declined from 1,262 full-time students in 2010-11 to 865 full-time students in 2015-16. However, according to Leibowitz, the actual number of students attending college is much higher than the full-time student calculation, which is based on a state formula for cost reimbursement.­

“As of 2016-17, about 3,026 part-time and full-time students are enrolled in the college,” Leibowitz said.

“Continued enrollment growth requires expanding the number of full-time instructors and boosting capacity to recruit and support new students. These goals are reflected in the budget.”

To accomplish the goal of increasing enrollment, the recommended budget would pay for expanded student advising and high school outreach to high schools across the region, as well as a robust marketing strategy.

Further, programs that allow high school students to earn college credits for certain courses they can take at their high schools has potential to boost CGCC’s enrollment, and reaching out to the region’s growing Hispanic population is also seen as a promising step to boost enrollment.

“We did project an increase of about 40 full-time students over last year as part of projections for tuition and fees. This would be less than a 5 percent increase in total enrollment,” Leibowitz said.

The proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget also calls for a tuition increase of $2 per credit, as well as adding a new $3 fee. These cost hikes are expected to result in full-time students at CGCC paying about $250 more in overall tuition and fees next year, if the budget is approved.

“We are presenting a structurally balanced budget, where our operating expenditures, not including debt service and contingency, are completely covered by planned operating revenues,” Leibowitz explained. “Most of our operating revenues are fairly fixed, as we have a good idea of what we will be receiving in property taxes and state aid next year.”

Other highlights of the proposed new budget include a contingency fund set aside for unanticipated emergencies. This fund is 2.5 percent of the total budget, or about $240,000. Total revenues for the upcoming year are projected to be $8.9 million, which includes state support of $4 million and $3.5 million being provided through CGCC tuition and fees. Property tax revenues are estimated at $1.131 million for the upcoming year.

Operational expenses are expected to come to $8.9 million. Of that number, $3.5 million is dedicated to instruction; $1.1 million to academic support; nearly $1.2 million to student services; $2 million to institutional support; and $1 million for plant operations.

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