WSCC trustees hear good news at meeting

Following a $1.5 million budget cut in the fall prompted by a drop in enrollment, Washington State Community College exceeded its enrollment goals for the spring semester and saved more than $85,000, largely by leaving additional positions vacant.

Washington State’s board of trustees heard the numbers Monday during its regular monthly meeting, held in the college’s Center for Business and Technology.

“Our revenue cycle is looking very good, and I remain cautiously optimistic that things are improving,” Chief Financial Officer Jess Raines said.

Factors including the state-mandated transition from quarters to semesters, federal changes in financial aid eligibility and an improving economy contributed to a nearly 16 percent drop in enrollment from the fall 2011 quarter to the fall 2012 semester. Based on the average 7.9 percent drop in the number of credit hours from the fall to spring quarters the previous six years, the administration cut the budget by $1.2 million through mandatory furloughs, reorganization and the elimination of some positions and other spending reductions. The board of trustees approved using $300,000 from the college’s reserves to offset the rest of the deficit.

But not hiring people to fill some unexpectedly empty positions helped the college realize $85,591 in additional savings. That money would likely be returned to the college’s reserves, said Claudia Owens, executive director of public relations and marketing.

“We did not know we were going to have all of those vacancies,” Raines said.

Enrollment targets were set based on meeting the reduced budget approved by trustees in September. The head count of 1,914 announced Monday was 175 students, or 9 percent, above the goal, while credit hours for the current semester totaled 18,574, 5 percent higher than the target.

It was not immediately clear how much of a savings that yielded, but Owens said it was not as big a factor as the unfilled vacancies.

Strategies for attaining the enrollment goals included an emphasis on meeting with and advising students to make sure they were on track to complete their programs, Owens said.

“We’re extremely pleased” with the numbers, President Bradley Ebersole said.

One of the main drivers of the enrollment numbers continues to be high school students. Between classes on the Washington State campus, dual enrollment classes at their home schools and online courses, high schoolers accounted for 569 students in the head count, an increase of 24.2 percent from the spring of 2012.

That contributed to the school’s part-time enrollment exceeding its full-time enrollment for the first time in recent memory, said David Scheimann, director of the Center for Student Success.

“We’re seeing this heavy footprint from the dual enrollment and the high school students coming out there,” he said.