Fiscal uncertainty extends to Sierra College campuses, including Truckee
Sun News Service
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; The budget scalpel touching virtually every portion of the states public life also will likely remove millions from the local community college district.
Sierra Community College District President Leo Chavez is expecting cuts of more than $6 million between the last fiscal year budget and the year that began July 1 at campuses that include Nevada County and Truckee.
That’s particularly worrisome at a time when jobs are scarce, out-of-work people are going back to school and the state’s four-year universities are limiting enrollments in the face of budget cutbacks.
The local impact at the Grass Valley campus and in Truckee, however, may not be as drastic as on the main campus in Rocklin.
While funding for community colleges is protected somewhat by Proposition 98 and#8212; a two-decade old California law that mandates a minimum level of money for K-14 education and#8212; the state’s budget shortfall makes funding less certain.
“We have no idea what our funding base is,” said Chavez, who leads the 25,000-student, five-campus system that serves Nevada, Placer and parts of Sacramento and El Dorado counties.
“Were going to have to make some reductions in our class schedules, and the longer we have to wait, the more inconvenience it puts on students,” Chavez said. “In the long run, students will probably be signing up for classes they wont be able to take.”
Like so many whose work depends on the California budget, Chavez said he really has no idea what to expect until lawmakers agree on a plan and the governor signs it into law.
“When and if we cut classes, we will have to prioritize our offerings,” he said, noting classes that are required for associate degrees or transfers to a four-year institution will be the last to go.
As students register for classes now, there is a chance the sections they want may not be available in August, Chavez said.
While Chavez notes that many who initially sought an education at California State University or University of California schools might have to choose a community college first, “theres no funding to accommodate that shift.”
The good news for local students is that both the Nevada County and Truckee campuses are in growth stages, with construction projects under way.
“It doesnt make a lot of sense to limit enrollment while youre expanding the campus, so youll probably see less impact at NCC. The cuts will most likely be less than what you might see on the main campus² in Rocklin.
At both Nevada County campuses, a higher proportion of students enroll in a part-time schedule than at Rocklin. As a result, the cost per capita of educating a student at the Nevada County campus is higher.
“The campus does pay for itself,” Chavez said of the Nevada County campus in Grass Valley.
While the state figures out how to pay for the cost of educating tomorrow’s leaders, the Grass Valley campus is in the midst of an ambitious project of remodeling and new-construction made possible by a $47 million bond passed by western county voters several years ago.
The Nevada County Campus welcomed a new dean, Stephanie Ortiz, who started work July 1; classes are set to begin Aug. 31.
Like so many whose fortunes are tied to the state of California, Chavez remains pessimistic even if lawmakers figure out how to close the budget gap.
“When theres a budget passed, I certainly will have no confidence in it,” he said.
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