Uncertainty about budget cuts for the 2011-2012 academic year and past budget cuts has shaped an tense atmosphere at Santa Monica College (SMC) for instructors and the students. Instructors are worried about their job security and many students are finding themselves shut out of needed classes.
Between 2007 and 2010 the number of credit classes being offered has dropped from 7,430 to 6,534. The average class size during the same period increased from 36.65 to 41.21. The number of full time faculty remained constant at 308 but the number of part-time faculty went down from 1,053 to 982. Finally, the number of SMC administrators has increased during the same period from 30 to 40.
The Mirror had the opportunity to sit down with the some of the members of the Santa Monica College Faculty Association (SMCFA) to discuss the budget crisis. All of these association officers are interacting daily with students.
SMCFA’s President, Mitra Moassessi, told the Mirror the strain of the budget cuts is really beginning to show. Now, on the first day of classes students who could not enroll in needed classes ahead of time line up and beg instructors to take them. “The stress level for everybody is up. All faculty take as many students as we can but we are still turning too many away. Some students are attending multiple institutions (community colleges) in order to get classes. Our budget committee has submitted a long list of budget saving ideas [to the administration] and revenue ideas because cutting classes should be the last thing that should happen.”
Tracey Ellis who is a member of the English as a Second Language Faculty and is the faculty association’s conciliator said the stories she has heard from students who wish to add classes have been heart wrenching.
“SMC has some of the largest class sizes in the community college system,” noted Howard Stahl the association’s chief negotiator. The vast majority of students [who attend SMC] are not well prepared.” Many of them need more individualized attention so the increase in class size has caused their education to be diluted. “This is not a good time to be a student.”
Students also used to drop more classes but now the slogan on campus is “don’t shop, don’t drop” because students don’t know if they will be able to get that class again.
The association’s vice-president, Sandi Burnett, stated that completing college in four years won’t possible anymore for many students because of the difficulty getting classes and/or transferring to a California State University or the University of California because they are taking fewer students [also due to the budget crisis].
Kymberlyn McBride the association’s part-time committee chair and a nursing readiness counselor pointed out that the schools counselors have already been severely cut because a lot of them are part-timers. This has meant the remaining counselors “cannot meet the needs of all our students.”
SMC has also been actively recruiting out of state and international students which have brought in an additional $20 million into the school’s budget because they pay higher fees. Stahl noted that this “speaks to the under funding of students in California that [state colleges and universities] at all levels are recruiting out of state and international students.”
The outlook for 2011-2012 academic school year and beyond is even bleaker. The college is planning a summer session that is going to offer one-third less classes this year than last year’s summer session. The offerings for fall and spring semester will be paired down from 5 – 10 percent compared to this year’s fall and spring semesters and there will be no winter session.
Robert Isomoto, SMC’s vice president of business/administration gave a presentation of the three most likely budget scenarios SMC will be facing based on the current state budget problems on March 23. If the voters reinstate the taxes that will soon expire through either a September or November ballot SMC would face a $5.6 million deficit. This will result in a projected loss of 1,243 full time equivalent positions (FTES) and a projected loss of 2,585 students. If voters do not reinstate the taxes or there is no vote the Governor would have to make double the cuts and SMC would face a $9.8 million shortfall which would result in the projected loss of 2,185 FTES and the projected loss of 4,545 students. Lastly, if the taxes are not reinstated and the state’s Proposition 98 is suspended the college would face a projected loss of $15.5 million resulting in a projected loss of 3,449 FTES and a projected loss of 7,174 students. These projections also include a hike in student fees of at least $36 per unit and fees could go as high as $66 per unit. In addition to the possible loss of state funding from any of the three scenarios the college is also facing a $5.7 operating deficit. Therefore, this sum must also be added to the loss projected for each of these possible scenarios.