Faculty, staff, administrators, and students gave up several hours last Friday to attend the first Annual Budget Retreat, where representatives from all levels of shared governance came together to review and prioritize budget requests based on the mission of the college as the school prepares for a bleak financial outlook from the state.
The retreat is one manifestation of the larger integrated planning model, a budgeting process that aims to link the school budget to planning and prioritization instead of ad-hoc funding, as recommended by the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges last year.
The seven-hour retreat had representatives from groups such as the Academic Senate, Classified Senate, Facilities Standing Committee, and Associated Students team up to rank funding requests for projects from copy machines to conference travel based on three college goals: student success, equity, and access; institutional effectiveness; and community engagement.
Crystal Kollross, director of institutional effectiveness, specifically arranged the working groups to be as diverse as possible while they reviewed requests.
“We tried to get different voices, we wanted to get them to think about this differently,” she said. “From a faculty perspective, administrative perspective, a student perspective.”
The success of the retreat shows a tangible, material step in changing the policies, practices, and more importantly, the culture of shared governance.
“The best thing to come out of this is the broader understanding of where our needs are,” said David Douglass, dean of the School of Science and Math. “There was a perception that the squeaky wheel got the grease. This is a more transparent process, but that in itself makes it more complicated.”
Kollross said she hoped the new process involving all parts of the campus would shed light and a semblance of transparency on a budget procedure that used to leave some suspicious.
“The goal was for them to see [the final budget] and say, ‘Right! It wasn’t a backroom deal, I seen that on our [budget prioritization] list,’” Kollross said.
The retreat also included a look into how the school is funded and the process of enrollment management, presented by Dean of Institutional Support Dr. Paul Jarrell.
The school is funded based on the number of full-time equivalent students (FTES), which is determined by a metric using the number of hours students are enrolled in per year.
This means classes with high unit counts and more students enrolled per class earn more money, and classes with mandated classroom caps, like some nursing classes, are likely to lose money.
“We have to remember there is a give and take. If we [lose money] in one course, we have to make it up somewhere else,” Jarrell said.
Since the amount of students per class is the only variable in the FTES formula, Jarrell suggested, an increase in class size is the only way within that system to increase revenue.
However, as some faculty in attendance noted, classroom enrollment affects pedagogy as much as income.
Before the retreat ended, Senior Vice President and Assistant Superintendent Robert Miller foreshadowed further bad budget news while explaining the outlook of state finances.
According to Miller, the state will eventually move toward funding based on completion rather than enrollment. With Prop 30 funding ending soon and the constantly rising cost of retired state employees, budget prioritization, transparency and planning will become increasingly crucial for all colleges.