03/23/11 — WCC watching, waiting for details on budget

View Archive

WCC watching, waiting for details on budget

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 23, 2011 2:24 PM

High enrollment and a precarious state budget continue to dominate conversations at Wayne Community College.

The board of trustees Tuesday night heard updates on program numbers and the possible need for a contingency plan should graduation ceremonies need to move indoors.

Meanwhile, the college continues to "operate in arrears," said its president, Dr. Kay Albertson. Its budget, she explained, functions on money earned the previous year, so, despite rapid growth in student numbers, funds come in from a year that wasn't as high.

"We're kind of in a wait-and-see pattern," Joy Kornegay, chief financial officer, said of the state's financial situation. "We're hoping we do not have to revert any additional funds."

The college still has much to appreciate, though, its president said.

"This is the largest spring semester in the history of Wayne Community College," she said. "We currently have 3,852 curriculum students."

In the spring of 2010, enrollment was at 3,679. And this past fall, it was up slightly, at 4,005.

"Normally, we have a drop in the spring," Mrs. Albertson said. "I'd like to think it's because people have gotten jobs."

Officials at the college study enrollment data very carefully, the president said, both cumulatively and in individual program areas.

"We did have a drop in our associate degree nursing program," she said.

This semester, there are 78 in the program, compared with 92 for the spring of 2010.

"I asked Peggy (Teague, vice president of academic services) what's the reason for that drop," Mrs. Albertson said.

It can be attributed, in part, to the fact that it's a two-year commitment, she said. Because of that, any time a student withdraws from the program, it's not simply a matter of substituting another student in that place.

"We know that eight dropped out for personal reasons," she continued. "We have had those ups and downs in the past, specifically when those students are Air Force dependents and life gets complicated."

Six others didn't make the grade, literally, she said, resulting in their not completing the stringent nursing program.

"We have initiated this academic year a brand new nursing curriculum, we knew there were going to be some complications," she said. "But that's a needed program, it's an expensive program and we want to keep those students so we're going to work on that."

Office systems technology is another area that has demonstrated overall growth, Mrs. Albertson said, particularly in such programs as cosmetology and medical office administration.

"A lot of those students are coming in and going into the medical coding, medical transcription," she said. "These are the kinds of programs that attract students and they get jobs."

Applied technology, aviation systems and associate in general education are also holding their own, officials said -- the former because the job market offers potential, the latter especially beneficial for students still undeclared for a major.

"Associates in general education is a great place for students who aren't quite sure what it is that they want to do, to get some core courses behind them and then make those decisions," Mrs. Albertson explained.

One area of uncertainty is the high school programs, including dual enrollment and Learn and Earn online.

"I don't know what the future bodes. We have heard all kinds of rumors," Mrs. Albertson said. "What we have been told is just to proceed.

"We really need to know right now because we're negotiating with the public schools. We just don't know what to tell people."

There have been hints that some offerings, such as Learn and Earn online, might be casualties of the pending budget, Mrs. Albertson said, but until that becomes official, the goal is to "continue to be good partners" as much as possible.

As the current semester quickly draws to a close, and plans are being made for early May graduation ceremonies, officials are having to weigh location options.

Historically, contingency plans are made in the case of inclement weather. Moffatt Auditorium, on the college grounds, used to be sufficient to house crowds attending the two ceremonies -- for curriculum graduates and those in the high school programs.

Not any more.

In May, officials are projecting "well over 500" candidates for diplomas, Mrs. Albertson said, with an estimated 300 to 350 walking across the stage.

"We'll be in trouble if it rains," she told the board. "It's sad that we don't have a place in Wayne County for graduation. ... We have got to find a space for it or we have got to do some mighty praying that it does not rain."

Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for May 10 and 11.