Funding cuts affect Coconino Community College

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - State cuts currently being discussed at the state capitol will have a profound impact on community colleges statewide, including Coconino Community College.

Vice President of Business and Administrative Services Jami Van Ess said, "The proposed cuts are extremely damaging and have forced us to cut programs and services the past two years. We have been forced to raise the tuition our students pay due to prior state cuts and ... further cuts caused by the state's budget crisis. We have been able to preserve essential programs through our sustainable financial plan that our governing board adopted in 2008."

In 2003, state aid was over 40 percent of CCC's budget. By fiscal year 2011 it was down to 16.5 percent of the total and now, if the announced cuts occur, it will be only 11.6 percent. The 65 percent funding cut to community colleges is based on an average of all Arizona community colleges. The proposed 32 percent cut in funding for CCC would mean that CCC would experience a whopping 48 percent reduction in funding since 2008. While funding for other agencies in the state was growing between 2001 and 2011, state funding for community colleges has been steadily decreasing.

CCC has traditionally been funded by three sources: state aid, local property taxes and student tuition. Currently community colleges property tax collections in Arizona are strictly limited by the Arizona Constitution. The college's property tax levy cannot increase by more than 2 percent annually, plus any amount from newly constructed properties. The strict limitation on property taxes places pressure on tuition levels.

"Unfortunately the only place we can go to make up for the deficits is to ask our district governing board for more tuition increases and CCC already has had the highest tuition cost of all community colleges in the state of Arizona for the past three years," Van Ess said.

For the first time in the history of the college, state cuts have tipped the balance of funding to where CCC's largest source of revenue is tuition. CCC is the only community college in the state that relies on tuition as its largest source of income. Tuition as a percentage of the budget for the other nine community colleges averaged about 20 percent of their budgets, at CCC tuition as a percentage of the three funding sources is double the average at 41 percent.

Part of the reason that tuition is so much of a part of the overall budget percentage is that CCC has the lowest property tax rate of any community college in the state of Arizona. Property tax currently accounts for 37.3 percent of CCC'S budget. For the other community colleges in Arizona, property taxes account for an average of 55.7 percent of their budgets.

CCC President Leah L. Bornstein said, "We have been an excellent steward of the taxpayer's money with our sustainable financial plan. Even with sound planning and substantial tuition increases, the cuts force us to consider options like capping enrollments, closing facilities and even changing the mission of the College. These drastic measures reduce services and programs and curb our ability to expand programs to Coconino County residents in the area of workforce development and the popular CCC2NAU transfer program."

CCC provides affordable tuition and a wide variety of certificates and degrees including career and technical programs. Additionally, CCC offers online classes and degrees in continuing education and in personal life-long learning workshops through the Community and Corporate Learning Division. The College also offers transfer programs to four-year universities. Classroom instruction is in-person, online and through interactive TV (ITV). CCC currently serves nearly 10,000 learners a year in Coconino County and has two campuses in Flagstaff, one in Page and offers classes via interactive TV in Grand Canyon, Fredonia, Tuba City and Williams.

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