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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

It’s all in the numbers; new funding formula raises questions for Los Rios district

City+College+students+walking+through+campus+Thursday.+Jason+Pierce+%7C+Photo+Editor+%7C+jpierce.express%40gmail.com
City College students walking through campus Thursday. Jason Pierce | Photo Editor | [email protected]

File photo: City College students walking through campus early Thursday morning.  Jason Pierce | Editor-in-chief | [email protected]

It’s all in the numbers; new funding formula raises questions for Los Rios district

Following significant declines in enrollment rates, the Los Rios Community College District now faces new challenges with the introduction of a new budget funding formula.

Earlier this year, a new state budget was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown that includes significant changes to public higher education funding. Although for decades California community colleges were funded based on full-time enrollment rates each semester, the new budget has adopted a performance-based funding model with additional factors, such as student success rates and the number of low-income students enrolled.

According to ebudget.ca.gov, the new model will be phased in over three years starting in 2018-19 with 70 percent of funding being enrollment-based, 20 percent based on low-income enrollments and 10 percent based on student success.

The 2019-20 school year will be 65 percent enrollment-based, 20 percent low-income based and 15 percent student success-based. The 2020-21 year will use a 60-20-20 funding model.

Los Rios College Federation of Teachers President Dean Murakami stated that over the last five years the district has seen a consistent decline in enrollment numbers.

“Although this year’s numbers are on pace with the prior school year, the district has averaged an approximate 2 percent decrease in enrollment rates over the last four or five years,” Murakami said.

Sacramento City College enrollment numbers alone fit this narrative.

According to City College’s Dean of Planning, Research and Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Marybeth Buechner, the last five academic years show approximately a 12 percent decline in total enrollments and 5 percent decline in total student headcounts.

While total headcounts refer to the total number of students enrolled in the college at a given semester, total enrollments are different in that one single student enrolled in four different classes in the same semester counts as four separate enrollments.

According to Murakami, his issues with the new funding formula are primarily with the performance-based aspects not being fully explained. At a state Chancellor’s Budget Workshop Aug. 13, the faculty union president said specifics of the new model were still left “up in the air.”

“We are looking for more clarification on the new factors of the formula,” Murakami said. “An example would be dual enrollments. Will those students have access to performance-based resources as non-dual enrollments would?”

Taking this lack of clarity into account, the district and the teachers’ union have decided to include a hold harmless provision in the budget for a three-year period beginning with the 2018-19 school year. This provision allows the district to receive no less than its base allocation (the previous enrollment-based funding­ amount) from the previous year, in addition to maintaining a cost of living adjustment of 2.71 percent for the the next three years.

According to Murakami, utilizing the hold harmless provision with the new funding formula grants the district approximately $3 million more than what it would receive through the new formula alone. If enrollment rates continue to drop over the three-year period, that number will continue to expand to $5 million or more until the provision is up.

Acting as a sort of safety net for the next three years, Murakami said the hold harmless provision grants the district time to make corrections in order to give the new formula stability. With less funding being awarded based on enrollment numbers, he warned that future declines could mean trouble for the district’s fiscal future.

“If funding continues to go down, the district will have to keep making adjustments,” Murakami said. “This could mean classes and programs are cut.”
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LRCCD Associate Vice Chancellor of Finances Mario Rodriguez said he shares Murakami’s concerns in declining enrollments—namely in the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket—but he said that Los Rios enrollment issues aren’t unique to the district.

“We’re in the majority of districts that are either flat or declining,” Rodriguez said. “There are very few districts in the state that are growing, and the reason for that is some parts of the state have had much cheaper housing prices—they might be less desirable places to live—and those places tend to have higher levels of unemployment.

“If you have more people moving into your area, that will give you more 18- to 24-year-olds,” Rodriguez said. “When you have higher unemployment, people are seeking to reskill to get back into the labor field, so they come to community college.”

Rodriguez said he sees Sacramento on the other side of the spectrum.

“Right now, Sacramento has a very low unemployment rate,” Rodriguez said. “We have (fewer) 18- to 24-year-olds, and housing prices are being impacted by people coming from the Bay Area.”

In response to Murakami’s concerns of the new formula, Rodriguez said that the new student-based allocations depend on a whole host of outcomes.

“The biggest amount of resources that we get allocated (based) on outcomes will be for associate’s degrees and associate’s degrees for transfers,” Rodriguez said of the new student success allocation. “There are also other factors, such as completion of transfer-level math and English in one year and how many of your students are out of poverty once they leave your institution, and so on.”

Other problems with the budget pertain to revenues for both full-time faculty hires and part-time office hours.

According to Murakami, of the $50 million available for each, there is no indication of when those funds will be available or how exactly these funds will be allocated.

“There is $50 million in the budget that can be directed towards new full-time faculty hires,” said Murakami. “We would love to have those details sorted out to bring in more staff.”

The biggest issues going forward, however, are the district’s declining enrollment rates and unclear specifics.

In terms of sorting out the specifics, Murakami said he sees only one way to kick the discussion into second gear.

“We’re ready to meet with LRCCD to have further discussions,” Murakami said. “We have to put the pressure on the state chancellor’s office.”

 

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