Budget cuts underway at Foothill

Foothill College is in the midst of a three-year process to slash the school’s budget by $6.16 million, a reduction aimed at alleviating the Foothill-De Anza Community College District’s $17.6 million deficit by 2020.

A total of $1.75 million was cut from the 2018-2019 budget, and the district proposes to eliminate an additional $4.41 million from the 2019-2020 budget.

The deficit occurred because the Foothill-De Anza district is losing students, a phenomenon Foothill President Thuy Thi Nguyen attributes to the strong economy.

“Unfortunately, in California there’s this general rule that when the economy is good, enrollment at community colleges goes down,” she said.

The district’s enrollment fell from 44,772 full-time equivalent students in fall 2008 to 35,403 in fall 2016, according to the district’s fact book. However, Foothill College has grown in recent years: between 2012 and 2016, enrollment grew by approximately 1,000 students, though the 2017-2018 school year saw a drop in enrollment, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office reported.

When the economy is robust, people are more likely to find work or pause their education, Nguyen said.

“When the economy is bad, people have free time and they realize the value of the education,” she said.

The first two years of budget cuts were implemented without laying off employees or cutting programs, Nguyen said.

Instead, some employees were moved to other departments or their salaries were paid via a different funding stream, such as the self-sustaining fund or the campus center fund, according to the President’s Report to the board on the first two years’ reductions. Nine vacant faculty positions were eliminated, the report stated.

Despite the recent budget cuts, Foothill College was ranked seventh in the country for two-year colleges in Washington Monthly’s 2018 rankings, the only community college in California to make the top 20.

Throughout the fall, a variety of town hall-style meetings are scheduled to solicit community feedback, and Foothill’s Planning and Resource Council will meet to discuss the direction of the budget. The Planning and Resource Council comprises students, faculty and administrators.

“I don’t anticipate having any program elimination, but that is still yet to be seen based on our process,” Nguyen said.

The Planning and Resource Council is set to present a budget reduction list to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees Nov. 2.

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