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RCC holds out hope for more funding

Although legislative leaders' latest budget proposal has offered community colleges less money than anticipated, Rogue Community College still is banking on more help from the state.

If additional state funding doesn't come, however, the school could face a mid-year adjustment or deep cuts in the second year of the biennium, officials said.

A plan put forth by leaders of the Joint Ways & Means Committee shears more than 15 percent from the funding for community colleges this biennium, trimming the allocation from $500 million to $423 million.

"It was not what we were hoping for," RCC Chief Financial Officer Lynda Warren said of the proposal.

RCC had built its budget, which must be adopted by the end of June, on the assumption that the state would trim funding for community colleges to $440 million in the coming biennium. That would have provided RCC with about $6.3 million in state support in 2009-10, down from $8.5 million in the current year.

With a tuition increase of $5 per credit for most students, and growing enrollment, RCC planned to hold spending steady next year at $29.2 million.

The latest proposal from the Legislature would send just $5.85 million in state revenue to RCC in the coming year.

However, the college's budget committee didn't adjust its proposal, and adopted the $29.2 million plan on May 19.

Warren said school officials hope the state reconsiders, especially since community college enrollment statewide is up 20 percent. Community college enrollment traditionally rises in hard times, when people go back to school to improve their employability.

"We are the responders to the economy," she said.

RCC expects enrollment increases in the coming summer and fall terms and doesn't believe it can change the level of services offered now, Warren said.

If the state doesn't provide more money, the college might make a mid-year adjustment that could lead to cuts then. It also could tap reserve funds to get through the coming year, then face steep cuts in the second year of the biennium, she said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.