Walla Walla Community College to cut pair of programs

The cuts are part of an effort to fill a gap left by a cut in state funding.


WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Community College will cut two programs next year, resulting in two layoffs, in response to a $1.1 million reduction in state funding.

The college plans to eliminate its precision machining technology program at its Walla Walla campus, and the carpentry program at its Clarkston campus, said college President Steve VanAusdle.

Locally, the cut to the machining program will let go of long-time instructor Alan Harwood, and also leaves about seven students midway through their studies. About five students finishing the second year of the program this year will represent the last class of precision machining students.

Clint Gabbard, vice president of student services, said nearly all of the first-year students have been contacted and have said they would like to finish the second year of the program.

"They want to continue," he said. "The question that's left for them is the where and the how."

VanAusdle said Columbia Basin College in Pasco has emerged as a partner, and has room in its program for the Walla Walla students.

"They're in an area where there is more demand for machining," VanAusdle said.

VanAusdle said the partnership with CBC works both ways. At the same time Walla Walla is losing precision machining, CBC is cutting its auto-body program -- a program VanAusdle says Walla Walla hopes to enhance, opening the possibility to welcome Pasco students here.

Gabbard said the college will also work to help the machining students affected by the cut to find jobs, different schools with similar programs or transition into new programs.

"We will help them get to where they need to go," Gabbard said.

Eliminating the program will save about $75,000, and the Clarkston carpentry program cut will save about $70,000.

The remainder of the college's budget hole will be met through smaller reductions, such as continued conservation efforts at the college, better use of energy, business revisions and paying off a debt service account.

Although the college's budget for the 2010-11 school year won't be finalized until June, VanAusdle said the two program cuts and other reductions appear firm.

Offsetting part of the state budget cut will be a scheduled 7 percent tuition increase, expected to bring in about $400,000 in the upcoming year.

At the same time, the college has seen increased enrollment over the years. But unlike K-12 public education, which receives state funding based on enrollment, the college does not get more money with more students.

VanAusdle said despite the enrollment boom of the past few years, the college is serving about 450 more students than the state budget covers. That has meant less money to meet the demand for instructors, resulting in increased class sizes, college officials said.

But there will be some investment in new programs by the state this year. Walla Walla Community College will receive about $385,000 in grant money from the state to boost its worker retraining program, which the college is using to expand its wind energy training program. The grant funds are good for one year, and will cover the program's start-up costs, VanAusdle said. Savings from the precision machining program are expected to maintain wind technology in the future.

VanAusdle noted that the grant to support worker retraining had to go specifically to a field of study regarded as in high demand, with good employment opportunities and competitive wages. VanAusdle said precision machining did not qualify at the college -- but wind technology did.

"We will serve more students in a high-demand field, where it appears there will be more jobs available," VanAusdle said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

Trustees meeting

The Walla Walla Community College Board of Trustees will get a budget update during its monthly meeting Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the college, 500 Tausick Way.


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