Clackamas Community College mulls program cuts to save cash

Clackamas County

In effort to save $1.3 million, theater, nursing, horticulture and more are on chopping block

Clackamas Community College is considering cutting academic programs to help save $1.3 million in the next fiscal year. (Courtesy/Portland Tribune)

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OREGON CITY, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) Clackamas Community College is considering cutting or reducing programs including theater, nursing, horticulture and many more.

The potential cuts come as the college is looking to reduce its budget by $1.3 million for the next fiscal year, according to spokesperson Lori Hall.

Clackamas has a “structural budget deficit,” Hall said, and has not seen enough revenue in recent years to cover the cost of operations because of declining enrollment, insufficient funding from the state and increasing expenses such as the Public Employees Retirement System.

Clackamas does have more than $19 million in contingency funds, according to the 2020-2021 adopted budget. While this amount is substantial, it reflects an expected decrease in those funds of about $3 million from the 2019-20 budget. According to Hall, $8 million of the contingency funds are ending fund reserves controlled by the board; and $11 million are restricted special revenue funds, restricted debt payments or capital bond funds that cannot be used to help operating deficits.

So the college is going through an “Academic Reduction and Elimination process,” the purpose of which is to compare the performance of academic programs based on cost, value, effectiveness and impact to determine which ones to cut or reduce.

The automotive garage space on Clackamas Community College’s Oregon City campus, renovated in 2019-20, features 12 new additional work stations for students in the automotive services technician degree program. (Courtesy/Jonathan House)

The full list of programs still on the chopping block was provided in an all-staff email on Feb. 4 from David Plotkin, the vice president of instruction and student services. They are: Welding AAS, Music Performance and Technology AAS, Horticulture programs, Nursing AAS, Computer Network and Administration AAS and CC, Microelectronic Systems Technology AAS and CC, Automotive Service Technology AAS, Geographic Information Systems Technology CC, Music, Music Performance, Theater Arts, German and French.

However, an email from Dean of Business Services Jeff Shaffer to some staff indicates music is not likely to be cut.

Which programs make money?

Programs initially made the potential cut/reduction list largely based on a financial analysis that attempts to delineate the profit or loss of each program.

The financial analysis considers academic programs only, not nonacademic programs such as athletics, admissions and registration, counseling, library services, veteran services and more. Though, Hall said the college is separately looking at numerous budget reduction alternatives.

The analysis looks at data from the four academic years of 2015-16 through 2018-19 and does not consider changes thereafter.

It takes into account tuition, fees (to the extent they are offsetting general fund expenses for a class), state funding, enrollment, full-time equivalency, instructional hours and total credits.

And with that data, it shows which programs are profitable and which are not.

The automotive service technology degree showed the greatest loss at $174,070, followed by nursing at $123,676 and horticulture programs combined at $105,235 — all of which continue to face cuts or reductions.

But some programs that show great loss are not at risk, such as Renewable Energy Technology AAS at a loss of $103,231 and under hood technician at $102,079.

And some programs that show smaller losses are on the list, such as theater arts, with a loss of just $4,859 as well as German at $3,111 and French at just $394 — raising the question of how equitable the process is.

The discrepancies, according to Hall, are because the decisions to cut are not just dependent on finances.

The college is considering factors such as reaching marginalized students, legal concerns, consequences of cutting/reducing programs, completion rates, current and future market demand and more, according to Hall.

The college also is looking at how well programs support the mission of the college, Hall said, which is, “To serve the people of the college district with high-quality education and training opportunities that are accessible to students, adaptable to changing needs and accountable to the community we serve.”

To apply some of these ideals into the decision-making process, the college is attempting to quantify them by using a rubric to assign numerical values to each item. Other ideals Hall listed are not accounted for on the rubric, and it is unclear exactly how they will be taken into account.

Programs try to save themselves

Meanwhile, the departments still on the list are scrambling to prove their programs are worthwhile.

The theater department released a flyer that is being circulated on social media, which says, “Save CCC Theatre,” and “There is no world without theatre.” The flyer provides a survey link to confirm support of the program at https://tinyurl.com/saveccctheatre.

The flyer is just one part of the department’s response to the reduction process, according to Chris Whitten, theater chair. They were encouraged to gather information that will help them write a three-part narrative on the validity of their program, covering diversity, equity and inclusion; evidence the community expects education in this area; and future events that could impact the program.

However, departments may find it difficult to validate themselves based on diversity, equity and inclusion since the college’s data is lacking in this area. The college has a portion of students whose gender is unknown, but simply lists its known genders on its website, which for the 2019-20 year was 50.5% female and 49.5% male.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, there’s a similar gap in the data as 31.9% of the population are listed as “unknown.”

In Clackamas Community College’s 2016 production of ‘Urinetown,’ Sam Levi plays Bobby Strong and Madison Stevens plays Hope Cladwell. The school’s theater program is at the risk of being out. (Courtesy/Kristen Wohlers)

The flyer is just one part of the department’s response to the reduction process, according to Chris Whitten, theater chair. They were encouraged to gather information that will help them write a three-part narrative on the validity of their program, covering diversity, equity and inclusion; evidence the community expects education in this area; and future events that could impact the program.

However, departments may find it difficult to validate themselves based on diversity, equity and inclusion since the college’s data is lacking in this area. The college has a portion of students whose gender is unknown, but simply lists its known genders on its website, which for the 2019-20 year was 50.5% female and 49.5% male.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, there’s a similar gap in the data as 31.9% of the population are listed as “unknown.”

Next steps

The college has not made any decisions yet. The process continues with ample time to share results with staff and the community. The college’s executive team expects to make a recommendation to the board by mid-April.

“These are important and consequential decisions that we do not take lightly,” Hall said. “We are taking the time and deliberation needed to make the best choices for the college and our community.”

To further aid in closing the budget gap, the college also is proposing a $5 per-credit tuition increase, which the board will have the final say on. Presently at $108 per credit, Clackamas’s tuition remains lower than other area community colleges’.

CCC’s per-credit tuition and per-credit fees amount to $119.50, compared to PCC’s at $131.70, Chemeketa’s at $126 and Mount Hood’s at $128.75.

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