BCCC needs adequate state funding to prosper and keep up with continued growth

Published 2:53 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

By Staff
Bravo to Beaufort County Community College.
The school is attracting students to its campus like cats to can openers.
As reported in a Daily News’ story this past week, BCCC just celebrated its largest-ever spring enrollment. According to school officials, 1,747 students took the BCCC plunge this semester. That bested the previous spring record of 1,716 students in 2003 and trounced the 2008 spring enrollment of 1,512.
School administrators attribute the increase to a variety of factors: Among them are the economic downturn and new BCCC initiatives that make it easier for people to attend college. Not surprisingly, given the nation’s deplorable economy, “repression-proof” classes such as automotive technology, basic law-enforcement training, electrical engineering technology and nursing are gaining more interest.
And that’s the particular value of community colleges: They’re grounded in the realities of small communities.
Typically, students are drawn to the two-year schools because A.) they can’t afford a four-year university; B.) they’re not ready for what can be — but not always — a more rigorous, challenging atmosphere in a university; C.) they want a smaller, more intimate college experience than many universities offer; D.) they’re more interested in what might be termed “blue-collar” programs, such as automotive technology, that are stressed in community colleges; or E.) they believe a community college degree will prepare them for the working world just as well as a university degree might.
That’s great.
But with BCCC’s continued growth comes the responsibility to offer the best education and facilities it can. That becomes problematic when state funding is scarce, as it is now. Faced with its own budget nightmare, the state dinged BCCC with two separate budget reversions in the current fiscal year. The reversions eliminated $279,327 from the amount the school expected to receive.
The college’s budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.
So what does a college do when it has additional students, but less money? It cuts such expenditures as out-of-state travel, supplies and equipment. It also leaves vacant open employee positions unless they’re directly related to classroom instruction.
So far, the school hasn’t had to eliminate class offerings, but further reversions could necessitate that move, said BCCC President David McLawhorn.
Admittedly, state officials are in a no-win situation these days. They’re being hounded by every lobbyist from the coast to the mountains. And BCCC certainly isn’t the only community college in the state to feel the economy’s effects, but that’s not much consolation when you’re struggling to maintain educational excellence.
It’s our view that North Carolina should place BCCC and the other state community colleges near the top of their funding lists. In addition to gaining an intellectual education, the nurturing atmospheres of community colleges also help students mature and develop communication and socialization skills.
And lest we forget, older students often seek out community college courses to bolster their credentials, increase their knowledge or simply to have fun.
It’s a good deal all around. Please keep that in mind, state officials.