Wayne Community College begins fall waiting on funds
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 15, 2013 1:46 PM
Wayne Community College expects to receive its budget figures from the state Friday.
Fall classes, however, started this morning.
It's an irony not lost on officials at the college, who say they look both ways during budget time -- planning ahead while being funded in arrears.
"I'm going to operate this year on money we made last year," said President Dr. Kay Albertson. "It really is an interesting process that we have to plan for monies we don't even know."
Joy Kornegay, chief financial officer, explained how it works.
"Our funding is based on our enrollment from the previous year or previous average of the last two years," she said. "It's called the two-year rolling average, whichever is higher.
"Let's say that we had 4,000 students last fall, spring and summer. That's what we're funded on. In 2013-14 we have 6,000 students. We're going to struggle because we only got funds based on those 4,000 students."
If, by contrast, enrollment was 4,000 one year and hovered close to that the following year, it would bode well when the budget was rolled out.
That seems to be the case as a new term starts this week.
"We're stable. We're projecting our numbers are going to be similar to what they were in 2012-13," Mrs. Kornegay said.
The fiscal year at the college begins July 1. Since the fall semester doesn't begin until mid-August, officials spend that month in a "wait-and-see" pattern, she said.
"It does help to plan," Mrs. Albertson said. "It's difficult to plan when you really don't know what your final figures are. You have to be conservative and you have to give consideration to everything. That's what we have done. That's been our pattern for the past six years.
"The entire system, the 58 community colleges, is down 1.6 percent. The General Assembly allocates X-dollars to the community college system. So our percentage, if you look at education in general, that affects all colleges, all 58 of the colleges. And what we are projecting is that our budget decreases by about 1.6 percent also."
Fortunately for WCC, enrollment during the recent years of economic decline has been steady as students sign up for additional training or workers return to college for advanced certifications. The trend appears to be continuing for the upcoming semester, the president said.
"We're operating with a flat budget. What happens is your expenditures per student are actually reduced," Mrs. Albertson said, something she admits isn't ideal. "But now we can continue doing a quality job, because we bring in more money from other sources, like grants.
"We'll continue to budget the programs and services we're known to have. You just have to look at more creative ways to provide funding."
The college's $39 million budget -- which does not include the WCC Foundation, operated separately and a large provider of student scholarships -- is comprised of state and federal funds and county appropriations.
"About 11 percent of our operating budget comes from our county" -- approximately $3.9 million -- Mrs. Albertson said. "It's the obligation of county commissioners to support the building and grounds, to maintain our campus.
"I don't think that's going to change that much this year. We do have our county budget. We have received the funding that we asked for. We felt really good about that."
Other changes are included in the state budget, however -- including a tuition increase of $2.50 a credit hour and continuing education courses going up $5. And no raises for any state employees.
But in the good news category, Mrs. Albertson said she has not had to make personnel cuts.
"We have made it our job this year, so to speak, to replace those positions that have been vacated," she said. "Titles may have changed, some responsibilities have changed, but we're in a good place with that."
It is a constant struggle to plan ahead and anticipate budget projections while second-guessing the amount of funding that will be provided, Mrs. Albertson said.
"It really is a juggling act," she said. "We're so used to it that we don't have as much anxiety. But it's not fun.
"It helps that Wayne Community College has been stable, our enrollment has been stable. We can't talk about that enough. I'm very proud of that. We do a very good job of recruiting and of retaining our students. It's the work that we have done to maintain our enrollment."