After a tumultuous year of budget cuts that involved dropping 11 instructional trade programs, Long Beach City College (LBCC) is in a more fiscally sound position, as state revenue has begun to creep back and a ballot measure passed by voters prevented even harsher cuts, according to college officials.
Still, a full return to the years of the past won’t happen overnight.
As the fall semester began this week, more than 14,000 students were on waiting lists for classes at LBCC, meaning classes are at capacity and many students may not be able to get the specific classes they need at their preferred times, said college officials.
LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a phone interview that the number of students on waiting lists is down from last year but still higher than what the college has had to deal with historically. He said the college had to make millions of dollars in reductions due to state funding cuts over the past four years while enrollment has increased substantially due to the economy and tougher restrictions at Cal State University campuses.
Though voters passed Proposition 30 that prevented LBCC from having to make more cuts, it still will be a while before LBCC can fully recover, Oakley said.
“We still have many years of backfills we need to get us back to the levels of four years ago,” he said. “Our capacity funding is still not at the funding level we need to support the students.”
Though Oakley said the college is “significantly behind” in meeting the demands of today’s growing student population, he doesn’t anticipate any more budget cuts at this time, adding that college officials are working hard to provide as many course offerings as possible.
“At this point, I don’t anticipate that we will need to make any more budget cuts,” Oakley said. “We made all the cuts that we needed to make to balance the budget. I’m cautiously optimistic that state revenues have stabilized. We’re hopeful the worst of the fiscal crisis is behind us.”
Earlier this year in January, the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees voted 4-1 to discontinue auto-body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, interior design, welding, automotive technology, real estate, photography, air-conditioning/refrigeration/heating, diesel mechanics and carpentry programs from its curriculum. Trustee Mark Bowen representing Area 3 was the lone dissenting vote. The decision was made to balance a $6.4-million structural deficit.
Oakley said some classes in these vocational fields, mostly at the college’s Pacific Coast Campus (PCC) are still offered at LBCC, however, the college is no longer offering certificates for these programs.
One impact this year is the cuts to Master Control in the Radio/TV and Music departments, where students are able to check out equipment for classes.
Keith Huss, a 34-year-old radio and television major, said he fears that student services won’t be as efficient and equipment might not be as easily obtainable. He added, however, “I am on the other hand looking at the positive side to what is left of Master Control to help the remaining programs that will still remain strong.”
Some faculty and students, however, vehemently protested the cuts. In April, student-body representatives, including now former Student Trustee Jason Troia, attempted to start a recall petition against four trustees on the board with the exception of Bowen.
The day before the recall effort was brought to the board, the Associated Student Body passed a vote of “no confidence” in the board of trustees.
Jeff Kellogg, who was appointed LBCC Board President in July, said the discontinuance of the 11 trade programs upset some students and faculty, but he said it was a necessary decision that was made through a collaborative process involving various meetings of the college’s academic senate, fulltime faculty and other groups.
“We accepted the recommendations of the process, and the process included faculty, students, administrators and everyone affected at the college,” Kellogg said. “As that process moved forward, it was looked at openly and fairly, based on data, and by the time it reached the board it was the recommendation of the process.”
Asked whether the trade programs may return to LBCC, Kellogg said he doesn’t see that happening. Kellogg added that data compiled through the budget process concluded that the 11 trade programs only produced 83 certificates in the past six years, and it was determined that cutting the programs would have the least impact on students.
“We’re not going backwards, and we can’t go backwards,” he said. “I don’t want to give anybody any false hopes. We made some changes, and now the college is moving on.”
Andrea Donado, who was recently appointed as the new LBCC Student Trustee, said in a phone interview that she didn’t want to discount ever bringing the programs back but the focus now is to lift the spirits of students who lost their vocational programs.
“We will have to work a lot on the morale of the students, at least at Pacific Coast Campus (PCC),” she said. “We have a really low morale in the students who had their programs discontinued, and we are trying to bring them all back to the college. There’s definitely some tension among the students, mostly in the trade programs that were discontinued.”
Kellogg, who is running for re-election to the LBCC board next April, said he plans to focus on “team building” this academic year to help the college get back on track, adding that he foresees “big things” in the college’s future.
“Besides fiscal issues that always come and go, we need everyone to feel a part of the college and to really start to make a conscientious effort to start to get people back on board with a little bit more spirit,” he said. “That’s an important part for me in the next 12 months.”
Donado added that she is “willing to work with the board for the best of our students.”
Despite the cuts, however, major construction projects have continued to transform both of LBCC’s college campuses as a result of bond measures passed by voters in 2002 and 2008. Most recently, the historic, 1940s-era Building A, which serves as a one-stop-shop Student Services Center at the Liberal Arts Campus, was rededicated last month after being remodeled with additional space and a rose garden in the courtyard.
In addition, various buildings are still under construction on the PCC. Oakley said the only new building that may be repurposed due to the discontinuation of the trade programs would be the aviation-maintenance facility at PCC. He said the college is in the process of exploring options on what career technical programs may be a good fit for the facility, adding that a decision may be made in the next four to six weeks.