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How state funding cuts are affecting RCC

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By Takahiro Kurosaki / Staff Writer

By Takahiro Kurosaki / Staff Writer

In the midst of a statewide fiscal crisis, Riverside Community College District has been making a hard effort to maintain its quality and serve its students.  

The extended delay of the state budget has caused the district to spend more time managing its cash flow.

“There are negative consequences, and what’s troubling to me is it’s become a permanent part of our budget landscape going forward,” said Jim Buysse, Vice Chancellor of Administration & Finance.

“And I don’t know when the state will be able to get out of that,” Buysse said.

In August, the state announced the deferral of payments to public schools, because without a budget, the state cannot afford to make payments to businesses that are contracted with the state, such as community colleges.

Riverside City College has implemented several budget strategies to deal with the budget crisis.

The school has reduced the number of sections for some classes, although the amount has been moderate compared to last year, when many class sections were cut out.

Another strategy is an early retirement incentive, which enables RCC to hire a faculty or staff member at a lower rate of payment by encouraging the faculty and staff members who are nearing retirement and earn the highest salaries to retire and take advantage of the incentives.

A hiring freeze, which limits hiring to only positions deemed necessary to the operation of the college, has also been implemented as a part of budget reduction strategies.

Buysse said that it was necessary to institute these strategies before the quality of education at RCC is reduced.

In addition to the delay of the state budget, the state funding cuts have also affected some RCC programs and services available for students.

Last year, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS), which provides support services for students who have educational disadvantages, lost 39 percent of its state funding and consequently had to reduce the number of students able to take advantage of EOPS programs and services.

Although the EOPS of RCC has historically provided its services to over 1,000 students, it has had to limit that to 400 students with the 2010-2011 school year.

The reduction of the EOPS budget is likely to continue.

In the 2010-2011 state budget proposal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed reducing the EOPS budget by $10 million in this academic year and using the funds normally set aside for Career Technical Education.

EOPS is waiting to receive its allocation and see the exact amount of the budget it will receive.

In order to alleviate some of the impact on the EOPS, RCCD has provided budgetary support to the program.

“EOPS might not be at 100 percent. However, we would be even worse off if it was not for the RCCD support,” Cecilia Alvarado, director of EOPS, said.

At a state level, EOPS and associated organizations are making efforts to withdraw future action, effectively stopping a further cutback in its budget.

Educational Opportunity Program Student Association, a non-profit organization working with EOPS, has gained support from lobbyists associated with the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

Advocating for all EOPS programs, they have lobbied in the pursuit of a sufficient budget to assist the EOPS students’ success, allowing them to continue supporting students with appropriate services and programs.

Taking action to avoid a larger cut in the EOPS budget is considered to be significant among advocates of the programs.

“Change is not made through complacency,” Alvarado said.

“Everyone in the state needs to get out and vote. Inform yourself what is going on in the state by reading the paper and if you do not like something you need to speak up. Speaking up can be via e-mail, office visits or a letter to your local politicians,” Alvarado said.

For more on the budget go to viewpointsonline.org.

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