CVCC at ‘breaking point’

Hundreds of area citizens are crowding into Catawba Valley Community College’s registration offices this week to sign up for classes for the coming fall semester.

Enrollment at the community college has steadily increased during the past several years, with administrators seeing about a 24 percent increase since 2007. But the same way attendance has grown, funding from the state has shrunk, putting school leaders in a bind to produce more resources with less cash.

This year, the state cut $2.5 million from CVCC’s budget, adding to the nearly $5 million in state budget reversions and spending restrictions that the state took away the past three years.

With further cuts of this magnitude and ever-increasing enrollment numbers, CVCC President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw said it’s getting hard to continue the college's tradition of excellence in the classroom.

“It’s really beginning to compound and affect our ability to fully carry out our mission here,” Hinshaw said. “We’re at the breaking point.”

CVCC will be able to absorb about half of this year’s cut through a strategy revolving around operational existence planning. The college will make up the remaining budget deficit in several ways.

CVCC will eliminate seven full-time positions from its pool of 358 full-time employees. They are non-teaching positions in administrative support that will be eliminated through reduction of force, re-assignments and unfilled retirements and resignations, Hinshaw said.

The college will also eliminate part-time allocations for administrative support areas.

“I’m letting good people go, and that’s detrimental to our students,” Hinshaw said, adding that about 89 percent of the school’s allocation is payroll.

This situation could be much worse. If CVCC was not able to absorb half of the state’s original cut of $2.5 million, Hinshaw said 25 full-time positions would have been cut. If each of those 25 positions served 100 students a semester, then that means 2,500 students would have been directly affected by the cut, Hinshaw said.

CVCC will also make up the deficit through reductions to the school’s supply and equipment lots, Hinshaw said.

These reductions could mean less technology equipment and resources for students. Mary Miller, CVCC director of community relations, said a reduction in supply and equipment affects teaching.

“We focus a lot on teaching through technology,” Miller said. “We cannot stay ahead of the technology and innovation curve if we have to reduce those resources.”

Nothing left to cut

Unlike large universities, CVCC has minimal revenue sources, with the state being its main form of funding annually.

Some major universities, such as schools within the University of North Carolina system, make tuition hikes to offset reductions from the state. CVCC can’t do this because the General Assembly and state board of community colleges set the tuition levels for the college. The college can’t keep its own tuition funds either, as that money goes to the state’s general fund first and is returned through receipts.

“We don’t get enough receipts to operate for the full year,” Hinshaw said.

CVCC does receive enrollment growth funding, but only after the growth actually happens — contrary to the UNC-system, where schools receive projected enrollment growth funds.

Focusing on education

But despite the cuts to staff, equipment and supply, Hinshaw feels the planned reductions affect students the least. Even with tough times and cuts from the state, Hinshaw said the school will be “creative” and “smart” to still provide for its students.

“We’re not going to sacrifice what happens in the classroom,” Hinshaw said. “We are focusing on excellence in the classroom.”

Hinshaw did say the cuts could cause fewer class sections and potentially larger class sizes in the future — something that Miller said is not what the college is about.

“We don’t have classes of 100 people in an auditorium,” Miller said.

“Our backbone was to keep the class size small.”

The backbone may be forced to weaken, though, if cuts of this magnitude
continue to occur in the future.

“If we go through another reduction of this level, we are going to have to review our mission statement,” Hinshaw said. “I don’t know where else to cut from.”