BCCC faces less funding, budget cuts

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beaufort County Community College faces decreased funding and smaller budgets for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

In November, the Board of Trustees asked each department to cuts its budget by 10 percent, giving the department leeway on where and how to do it.

“It was very painful. Most of them had never done a budget reduction like this before,” said Dr. Barbara Tansey, president of BCCC.

Although the department heads tried to keep most of the cuts to equipment and the like, some layoffs are expected for the upcoming fiscal year, but not as many as the board anticipated, she said.

“I was very surprised that it was not as bad as we thought,” Tansey said.

No programs have been cut for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1, but the Board of Trustees will reassess the number of students in the programs in August 2017, according to Tansey. As programs have been cut in the past, the college usually tries to still keep the lower course levels related to a field or funnel the money into a new program, she said.

The budget cuts are due to less state funding for the next fiscal year, and this is determined by several factors.

Much of the funding is determined by the number of students enrolled, which has noticeably declined since BCCC stopped participating in the Federal Direct Student Loan program as of July 2015. The decision led to criticism and outcry from many residents.

Enrollment for curriculum programs fell by more than 20 percent during the 2015 fall semester, according to a press release.

Of the 604 students participating in the loan program for spring 2015, 408 of those did not return in the fall semester, the release stated.

As of January, the numbers for curriculum, or Full-Time Equivalent (FTE), programs fell from 757.64 in spring 2015 to a projected 537.59 in spring 2016, according to a memorandum given to the board by Jay Sullivan, vice president of research.

Rick Anderson, vice president of student services at BCCC, said stopping the loan program was necessary for the college’s future.

He said BCCC’s default rate, which is determined by the percentage of students who cannot repay loans, spiked to more than 29 percent in 2014. Colleges are at risk of losing other kinds of financial aid at a default rate of 30 percent, and upon reaching 40 percent, will lose Title IV funding.

According to Anderson, losing the Title IV funds would force BCCC to close its doors.

Other factors contributing to the lower numbers include an improving economy, which directly correlates to lower community college enrollment across the state, and the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience’s move out of BCCC’s coverage area.

“It’s not just loans. … Now that certainly is a piece of it. We don’t want to discredit that,” he said. “It’s kind of been a perfect storm.”

Tansey said the school has weaved in and out of the federal loan program over its history, and now it is trying to adjust to its new enrollment numbers, which are comparable to the numbers from other years without the loan program.

“We’re kind of calling it our new normal,” she said. “Our new normal refers to the size we were before we went in the student loan business.”

Both Tansey and Anderson estimate the “new normal” hovers around 1,500 students.

“That’s not where we want to be and not where we want to stay by any means, but we have to be realistic,” Tansey said. “We have a smaller population to pick from than we’ve had before.”

Anderson said BCCC continues to combat these changes by collaborating with other entities in the community, opening a new site in Washington County and moving forward with plans for a Public Safety Training Complex to attract interest.