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Declining community college enrollment awaits

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about planned layoffs at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, OR. The cuts result from several factors, including declining community college enrollment, inflation, and reduced state funding. It seems the problem isn’t limited to LBCC. The Oregon State Legislature is prepared to cut the state’s higher education budget across the board.

Although legislators have not signed off on the final appropriations, most post-secondary institutions believe they will have a gap between their overall revenues and their expenses. To illustrate the nature of the problem, Oregon higher education institutions say they will need an increase in funding of 8.5% to counter inflationary pressures. The State legislature is planning to deliver a 2.5% funding decrease.

At that level, most higher education institutions – including the state’s community colleges – will need to increase tuition to make up for the state funding decrease. In addition to raising tuition, community colleges are planning to eliminate programs and services. Depending on the institution, the cuts could amount to a half-million dollars or more per institution.

At Clackamas Community College, the administration had planned to increase student tuition by $4 per credit hour. That increase would repair the hole in CCC’s budget, caused by declines in enrollment. To cover the loss of state funding, CCC will now need to increase tuition by $6 per credit hour. A rate increase of that magnitude is likely to drop community college enrollment even more.

The Oregon State Legislature blames the decrease in funding on the wind-down of federal COVID-19 funds and declining state revenue. Additionally, the Oregon State Legislature expects the state’s higher education institutions to cap tuition increases at 5%. The anticipated decrease in funding combined with inflation and the tuition cap, could leave revenues short of expenses by more than 6%.

Declining community college enrollment will hurt new program development

In the last two days, I have looked at what North Carolina and Texas have in store for their community colleges. In Oregon, the budget cuts represent nothing sinister; It’s just a simple mismatch between dollars coming in and dollars going out. The state funding cuts mean more than increasing student tuition and cutting programs.

It means there’s no state funding for redesigning and introducing new community college programs. That’s money the community colleges were hoping for after the Oregon Higher Education Commission recommended a 10% increase in funding for universities and a 20% increase in funding for community colleges. The stark reality is that the money to fund these recommendations simply isn’t there.

Lack of state funding is another reality that community colleges around the nation will face. Amid chronic declining community college enrollment, missing out on money intended to fund new program development may be what hurts the most.

Photo Credit:, via Flickr