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Community college trustees must seek accountability

Recently, several community colleges and community college systems have announced that they intend to reduce staff and faculty through involuntary separations. Some colleges and systems are struggling to close previously unknown budget deficits or deficits whose actual sizes were misidentified.

The administrations of these institutions can come up with a variety of reasons the overspending occurred, the revenues dropped, the enrollments have declined, and instruction is the most reasonable expenditure to reduce. Whatever the problem is, it certainly isn’t the administration or their hiring, strategy, and spending decisions.

From the administration’s perspective, their budgetary problems are the result of a good economy, or the expense of attending classes, or the lack of state funding. Budget shortfalls couldn’t possibly be related to the small army of executives that the institution hired, or the brand new building(s) they built, or the years of accumulated neglect in the buildings they failed to take care of.

It couldn’t possibly be the chronic lack of investment in new instructional programming that would attract both new students and new industries. And it certainly couldn’t be that the lack of new instructional programming resulted in diminishing economic returns for the students, local employers, and the local community.

Whatever the problem might be, it’s certainly not the strategy of eliminating low value associate degree programs in favor of even lower value certificate programs. And it has nothing to do with diverting tax dollars that the community authorized for operational expenses to fund bond debts for construction projects the community did not authorize.

Review decision outcomes of community college administrators

The budget deficits can’t be related to the salaries of the faculty and staff because they get raises of only 1%-2% per year. And hiring expensive “professional negotiators” to make sure the unions on campus get minimal salary increases makes good business sense, especially when the savings enable the Board to raise the executive’s salary by 35% over the same contract period.

At some point, the Board of Trustees needs to take a long hard look at the decisions of the executive staff and hold them accountable for the outcomes. In the long run, has it been a good idea to reduce the number of degree programs? Has that strategy produced a higher economic return for the students? Are community employers able to hire better prepared employees? Has the county been able to attract new employers and more importantly, new industries? Have the construction projects on campus needlessly raised the cost of attendance while failing to attract new students? Did the strategy of putting off necessary maintenance for the buildings on campus increase or decrease facilities costs?

Where is the accountability?

Photo Credit: Laura Gilmore , via Flickr