SBCC Enrollment Grows but Budget Takes a Hit

State Funding Formula Hamstrings Adding Classes and Students

Santa Barbara City College | Credit: courtesy

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Santa Barbara City College is in the midst of a great challenge — we’ve moved classes online effectively, our enrollment is growing, and our budget is worsening as the result of state’s deficit of $54 billion. Our faculty and staff have risen to these challenges, offering an entirely online summer schedule that is serving our community. Planning is underway regarding how best to serve our students in fall 2020. As always, our college will offer an excellent educational experience, student supports, and new opportunities.

Dr. Utpal K. Goswami
Dr. Utpal K. Goswami

SBCC began its Summer Session I on May 18 with a 19 percent increase in enrollment. Summer Session II, which will start on June 29, is currently up 16 percent. The growth in enrollment is not surprising since we have been getting indications, following the record unemployment situation and decisions by many four-year institutions to remain fully online, of increased student interest in the value of a community college education. Additionally, we know that SBCC is a great choice for our local high school students.

As COVID-19 began to take hold, SBCC took the lead among community colleges to move courses online early on in the response to the pandemic. As a result, we were able to move almost 97 percent of our credit classes online. Our requirements for faculty to teach online are considered an industry best practice. The SBCC Foundation, a stalwart partner for the institution, stepped in to provide emergency grants to over 2,000 students to the tune of $2 million. No other community college compares to the level of support the SBCC Foundation, and by extension, our community has for the institution. We thank the community for its generous support of our Foundation.

We remain optimistic that there will be higher demand for SBCC classes in the months to come. Students and families will assess the costs and risks of starting at universities when we can provide the same or better instruction for a fraction of the cost or for free under the SBCC Promise. We will be here for those of you seeking to enhance your work skills, identify a new career, or develop new competencies.

And yet, if you have been following our budget news, we are only projecting a marginal increase in our resident enrollment. That is because, unlike the case for many other educational institutions, more California students do not equal more revenues for SBCC. All our tuition and fee revenue go into the state coffers. In return, we are given an allocation based on the Student Centered Funding Formula. And that allocation is based on enrollment averaged over the previous three years, not on the year being funded.

Our ability to enroll more students depends on whether Community Colleges are allocated growth funding. As it stands now, we will only receive funding to add approximately 65 more students. If we enroll over that number, we are spending dollars to offer classes but get no additional revenue. Readers may remember the last recession where many students could not enroll because classes were full. On the flip side, lower enrollment does not always equate to lower funding on a one-to-one basis due to three-year averaging and many other nuances of the state funding formula.

It is unfortunate that community college funding in California goes down exactly when the demand for our services go up. Community colleges all across California will be forced to leave potential students out because of the funding crisis.

The extraordinary impact COVID-19 on the state budget is making things worse. To begin, core community college funding will be reduced by 10 percent. In addition, many project or initiative-based funds will also be cut, some up to 60 percent. As state revenue goes down, so do ours. Over the years, SBCC has been able to deliver extraordinary programs and services because we have been able to leverage the additional revenue gained from nonresident (out of state and international) students. Given the COVID-19 impacts and travel restrictions, we are projecting nonresident enrollment will decline by 20-30 percent depending on the student group while we accommodate resident students to maximum capacity.

To summarize, we are going to see $7 million plus in reduced state funding, $4 million in reduced nonresident enrollment fees, and increases in many other costs. All of this presents a significant budget impact to us. We will have to make some difficult budget decisions. We will do it rationally, collaborativel and with our mission in mind. Our commitment to serve our students and our community in the best possible way remains steadfast.

Utpal K. Goswami is superintendent/president of Santa Barbara City College.

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