GCC drops six-week winter session ahead of budget cuts

Glendale Community College officials have decided to eliminate the school’s 2012 winter intersession as they struggle to cope with state funding reductions of up to $10.7 million, a blow that could prompt administrators also to cut this year’s summer session of classes.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday suspended negotiations on allowing voters to decide on extending current tax rates in the upcoming June election. If those tax rates are not extended, Glendale Community College officials said, they will see the college’s 2011-12 budget slashed by between $6.7 million and $10.7 million.

Without the June referendum on the table, Ron Nakasone, executive vice president of administrative services, said the college is preparing to cut as much as 18% from its $85-million budget in order to stay out of the red.

“Our hourly workers are at risk now, our student workers are at risk,” Nakasone said. “For us to come up with 18%, we’ve got to make significant cuts. We are going to have to reduce classes. We are hoping to avoid layoffs, but I am not sure we can do that if we have to make the 18%.”

Supt./President Dawn Lindsay said the upcoming summer session remains in doubt pending negotiations with the faculty union. A decision will be announced on April 18, she said.

“Unless we can work with faculty to come up with faculty concessions, we cannot offer summer session,” Lindsay said. “I want to stress that the faculty are also concerned about the students, and I do feel we are having conversations that probably could not occur at any other college.”

Eliminating the six-week-long summer and winter intersessions could squeeze the abilities of many students to graduate or transfer to four-year universities within a certain time. Classes for the previous winter intersession were full within 48 hours of registration being opened.

The college is currently reviewing all of its discretionary accounts to see what cuts can be made, Nakasone said. The college will offer incentives that he hopes will generate between 30 and 40 early retirements, he added.

Brown had hoped to generate $9.3 billion by extending current tax hikes for an additional five years, but Republicans have vehemently opposed the proposal.

The announcement that Brown had dissolved negotiations reverberated up and down the state’s community college system, which has already lost hundreds of millions of dollars in funding amid the economic downturn.

“It is death by a thousand cuts,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said during a teleconference with reporters Wednesday. “There has just been a steady erosion and we have to go ahead and adjust to it, but it certainly is not in the best interest of community colleges and not in the best of interest of students and not in the best interest of the state of California.”

Administrators at several districts said the new round of cuts will limit the ability of California community colleges — the largest education system in the world, with 2.7 million students — to educate tomorrow’s workforce.

“It is time for the state of California to clearly articulate what it wants its community colleges to do,” said Eloy Oakley, superintendent-president of Long Beach City College. “We are in a situation where we are going to have a permanent reduction in the size and scope of our mission.”

Many of the thousands of students who will be turned away come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, administrators said.

“There is no way we can say that it is business as usual,” Lindsay said. “It is hard when you are looking at the options. It is hard realizing that we cannot stay the same.”

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