College district in growth mode

With an opportunity to grow its budget, the Coast Community College District is trying to lure back students and the funding that comes with them — a reversal from the limitations placed on registration last school year.

"This is probably the best budget year we've seen in five or six years," Vice Chancellor Andrew Dunn told the college district's board of trustees Wednesday night while he presented the tentative fiscal plan for 2013-14.

The board unanimously approved the $2 million tentative budget. It will continue to be worked on and return as a final document in September.

The district needs to enroll the equivalent of 2,500 more full-time students in 2013-14 to meet its base enrollment goals. That number of new students would mean an additional $11.7 million in revenue for the 2014-15 budget, Dunn said.

On top of that, the district hopes to add the equivalent of an additional 1,100 full-time students, with each adding about $4,500 each to the budget. Full-time equivalency is derived using a complex calculation that involves part-time enrollment, how many units are being taught and much more.

"No matter how we slice it, we have some significant growing to do this year," Dunn said.

That means more classes, faculty hires and even a marketing budget.

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa already increased the size of its summer session by 150%, and the other two colleges in the district — Coastline and Golden West College — have more robust offerings as well.

Depending on how well OCC and other campuses meet their enrollment goals, the district could even bring back classes during a winter intersession, Dunn said.

The district deliberately held down registration last school year in case Proposition 30 did not pass. Now that voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown's education initiative, which temporarily raises sales taxes and taxes on income above $250,000, the district can open its doors to more students, Dunn said.

The tentative budget includes $250,000 for marketing, which will augment what each campus is already dedicating to attracting students.

Orange Coast College is kicking in $200,000; it has already aired TV and radio ads and sent 30,000 mailers to prospective students, OCC President Dennis Harkins said.

"The most important thing we need to do now is make sure we hit those FTES [Full Time Equivalent Student] targets I outlined for you," Dunn told the board.

Although there's growth on the horizon, Dunn warned of an uncertain future when Proposition 30's tax hikes expire in 2019.

"We're still not out of the woods yet," trustee Jim Moreno said. "Those are words that you uttered that have to be taken to heart. We're still in this experiment to see how well we can come out of this economic situation in which we find ourselves."

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