From Staff Reports

WEATHERFORD – In response to a directive from the State of Texas, Weatherford College has submitted a plan to cut more than $405,000 out of its current budget and more than $411,000 out of next year’s budget.

The Governor’s Office and the Legislative Budget Board have directed all state agencies, colleges and universities to submit plans to cut five percent from their budgeted state appropriations in the current biennium, or two-year period, including the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years.

WC has joined many Texas community colleges in asking the state for an exemption to the mandatory budget cut.

WC has experienced dramatic enrollment growth in the last year, with a 13 percent jump in the fall 2009 semester and a 12 percent increase in the current spring 2010 semester, compared year-to-year.

Dr. Kevin Eaton, WC president, said decreasing the current budget will be especially difficult, since five months have already passed in the fiscal year, which began Sept. 1, 2009.

“I strongly believe that the economic impact to the local community, as well as the potential detrimental impact on our students, far outweighs the short-term benefit that may be realized by the five percent cut in appropriations,” Eaton said.

“Sixty percent of the total enrollment growth in Texas higher education over the past eight years has occurred at community and technical colleges. Therefore, funding reductions could counteract this growth, and potentially lead to flat, or even negative, growth. If this occurs, not only will the institution suffer, but the community as well.”

Eaton said students likely would feel the most dramatic impact from the budget cuts.

“The main reason that community and technical colleges have realized such amazing growth over the past few years is because of their affordability to students. However, with a potential increase in tuition of six to 10 percent, the dream of a college education could now be out of reach for many of our students.”

With statewide unemployment hovering over eight percent, higher education experts are looking to community colleges to help retrain individuals for today’s workforce. But that could be difficult with even fewer dollars from the state.

“Many Texans have returned to community colleges to obtain marketable skills for today’s workforce,” Eaton said. “If community colleges are forced to limit enrollment through increased tuition or fewer course offerings because of furloughed faculty, what options are available for these out-of-work Texans?”

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