BY BEN POPALARDO
Advising and registration for students has become more difficult due to a $2 million budget deficit this semester, according to Dean of students Robert Baer.
“We’re understaffed. And having a budget deficit is not going to help us,” said Baer. We know what we would like to do, but we just can’t hire anyone in those areas.”
According to Baer, the brunt of the deficit is affecting staff, with students being indirectly affected. Due to a smaller budget than administration is accustomed to, hiring enough staff to properly advise and guide students is difficult. Not all positions are being filled.
“It’s not affecting our students, it’s affecting part of our staff,” said Baer. “We have a number of areas that we have not hired. In those areas, we have needs, open positions, because of this.”
Currently, there are two admissions counselors. This makes recruitment and advising of students difficult. According to Baer, the college cannot reach out to as many students as they would like with this lack of manpower.
A smaller staff also equates to less availability for professors, reducing the number of classes that are available to students, as well increasing the minimum number of students required for a class to run. Dean of Academic Affairs Pamela Edington has had to cut classes from the schedule, keeping only what is necassary.
“I leave everything on the schedule that is required for graduation. Electives are what are taken off,” said Edington.
Student Government Senator Blair Cassel experienced this first hand when his Victimology class was cut due to low enrollment numbers. While Cassel was able to take all of the classes that were required to graduate, he missed out on the credits given by this elective when the minimum number of students required was raised.
“One of the classes that I signed up for, Victimology, was cancelled due to low enrollment,” said Cassel. “They raised it, and there wasn’t enough students.
According to Edington, the general studies courses such as the sciences, math and english courses required for graduation are of particular concern, as they are required by all students. However, late registration by students is also a part of the problem.
“If we had students registering early, we would have a better idea of student needs,” said Edington. “Students need to register for their next semester so we know what they need. We’ll add courses to the schedule to meet the demand.”
The deficit was caused by a redistribution of funds required by the state between all Conn. community colleges. Currently, administration is discussing the best ways to distribute the current funds to suit the college’s and the student’s needs.
It is not yet clear to administration what areas will need to be cut. There are a number of expenses to consider, but costs of staff and faculty are one of the largest concerns.
“Once you’ve eliminated all of the extra expenses, it gets to where it’s your people who are your largest cost, and they are certainly the last thing you want to have to reduce in order to balance your budget,” said Edington.
According to Baer, some larger projects had to be halted in the face of the deficit. It is not entirely certain whether all of these programs will come to fruition in the future.
“We’re maintaining right now. We would like to do some new things, and we’re still moving forward, but we just have to see how we can move things around to make new plans, and at some point we may need to make decisions on what we can do and what we can’t do,” said Baer.
According to Edington, ways of reducing waste and generating more funds for the school are being explored. Greater usage of online resources such as Blackboard and student e-mails are key in reducing paper waste, or expanding the extended studies program which generates additional revenue for the college.
While direct impact on students is somewhat minimal according to Baer, according to Cassel, student clubs were faced with reduced budgets this semester as student government had less funds to distribute.
“We have less money all together to give to the clubs, so we had to be a little prude on what we were giving some clubs,” said Cassel.
Going forward, the students’ needs are what comes first for the deans. Baer stated that above all, the students and their education comes before the needs of the college.
“If we have to make decisions, the educational mission has to come first,” said Baer
Edington believes the cuts create an opportunity for the college to try new things, and to ultimately improve the quality of education being offered to students.
“Every crisis is an opportunity,” said Edington. “Something has to interrupt the status quo to make people change, to innovate, to transform, to adjust to the new environment. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. Routines are comfortable for people, and change is hard, but it’s also interesting and keeps us learning.”