By Les Zaitz
ONTARIO – The season’s not proving too cheery at Treasure Valley Community College, where another drop in enrollment is forcing yet another round of budget cuts.
College officials went into the new school year expecting the same student count they had last year, arresting a drop dating back to 2010.
Instead, the total student count this fall dropped 20 percent from a year ago. And the full-time equivalent enrollment – converting all students into full-time students for statistical purposes – dropped 7 percent.
“It’s alarming, of course,” said Dana Young, college president.
Young said new programs added this year aren’t doing as well as expected. The college expanded teaching in aircraft, medical, and manufacturing automation. Enrollment stands at 91. The college expected 209.
She said the college also detected the college has fewer part-time students, probably because of the strong labor market locally.
“They’re going to work” instead of class, Young said. “It’s a sign of how many jobs are out there.”
Young said the college forecast earlier this year that it could hold enrollment steady this academic season “seemed reasonable at the time.” She said besides adding new programs, the college worked to retain students and to recruit more. Recruitment efforts haven’t been as successful as hoped.
Since 2010, according to state figures, Treasure Valley’s total student count has dropped 41 percent, from 3,072 to this year’s 1,819.
The continuing decline in student enrollment will force a reshaping of the college, Young said.
“We have to right size the institution,” Young said. “We have to find our uniqueness.”
The college is focusing on devising training programs for students to help local employers.
“We are going to have to cut some programs we are currently offering to add new programs,” Young said, agreeing the college faces a profound transition.
Abby Lee, college assistant vice president for marketing, said college officials have to probe hard.
“What do students need that we’re not offering?” Lee asked. “We refuse to believe that education isn’t going to make a difference for students.”
The college meantime must again get out the paring knife to whittle planned spending. The college last year had to cut about $1 million half way through the school year. This year, the cuts will be half of that, in part because the college is getting $318,000 more in property taxes and state funds than it expected.
The cuts are forced in part because there are fewer students paying for classes. College officials estimate Treasure Valley will lose $391,000 in student tuition and fees. Other college programs that contribute money for operations also aren’t doing as well. The bookstore and the Caldwell campus both are expected to each generate $50,000 less than expected.
College administrators have been directed to dig through their budgets to propose savings. Young said one place the college would save is in teaching staff – fewer adjunct instructors are needed since there are fewer students.
An unknown at the moment is the cost of salaries. College officials and the faculty union are scheduled for mediating sessions to strike a new labor contract. Young said the college wants to slow down pay raises. Because the last contract expired, the college had to grant 4.5 percent pay raises this year to faculty who had not reached the top of their pay scale, Young said.