Low enrollment limits funding, one-time monies

By Benjamin Bassham, News Editor

California has increased its educational budget, which is great for schools that are growing, but Contra Costa College is not one of those.

While CCC is faced with budget cuts through enrollment shortfalls, plans have been made.

“(The state budget is) pretty impressive. There’s $200 million for the Strong Workforce Program,” CCC Director of Economic and Workforce Development Kelly Schelin said. “It demonstrates the governor’s commitment to furthering higher education.”

Business Services Supervisor Nick Dimitri said, “Back during the state budget cuts, a lot of the categorical grants were cut. This year we saw nearly a full restoration of the state categorical funding. If (the funding) comes down to the colleges it’s going to be in grants.”

Categorical grants are essentially a grant with strings attached. Categorical funds have specific purposes, restrictions and objectives that must be met.

Business Services Director Mariles Magalong said, “(The Chancellor’s Office) increased the funding, but they also increased the requirements.” So the cost of meeting the requirements of categorical funds does a lot to negate them, and could even exceed what they provide.

Dimitri described the situation as, “here’s the money and here’s what you have to do with it.” He said if the grants are offered, “we kind of have to take the money. There are very few instances when we would refuse it.”

“Our operating budget for salaries, benefits and other costs is about $27 million,” he said. “The categorical (funding) from the state, from the feds and from other agencies total about $8 million of that.”

The categorical grants are a nice seasoning, but the funds from the Full Time Equivalent Students is the college’s real bread and butter.

FTES is how the state measures the size of a college with each FTES representing 15 units of classes being taken by students.

Magalong said, “Our resident FTES target has been 5,581. We have not reached that in the last four years. We have fallen short by between 200 to almost 900 FTES. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year the college’s FTES projection is being reduced by 200.”

She said this means about $1 million less funding for the college.

“Although, if we actually generate enough FTES we will get the funding, but it’s not a realistic expectation,” she said.

Dimitri said, “We have about a $800,000 to $1 million shortfall this year. But we have reserves that we can live on for a year or two.”

Magalong said, “We (are budgeted to generate a reserve of) a little over $2 million total, and a little over $1 million in undesignated money. We won’t know (exactly how much has been generated) until June 30 when our fiscal year ends.”

If it goes well it will cover the budget shortfall in the coming year.

“We make do with it,” Dimitri said.

 Part of the problem is not just a lack of money, but also an excess of responsibility.

Dimitri said that money from student enrollment could be used freely.

“The 10 to 15 percent (that make up) discretionary funding you can play around with. Of the $27 million you’re looking at around 80 percent for salaries and benefits. You can’t play around with those,” he said.

The simple, yet difficult solution is to raise the college’s FTES count by increased student enrollment.