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'Timing all wrong' for change in college funding, CWC says

Mar 26, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Officials at Central Wyoming College are worried about a potential change to the state's funding metric that would redistribute money to community colleges based on student completion rates.

According to CWC, the Wyoming Community College Commission may eliminate 10 percent of its variable funding for individual college block grants. The money -- about $8 million for 2015-16 -- would be redistributed based on "completion" metrics, which are currently undefined.

CWC President Joanne McFarland said the move would place additional strain on colleges that already are working under an additional 6 percent budget cut at the state level this year.

"This (change) would give us even more uncertainty in our funding," McFarland said in her March report to the CWC Board of Trustees. "In addition, this so-called 'incentive' funding would reduce block grant funding that colleges are now struggling to use for covering regular college operations."

Timing

The concept comes at a time when colleges already are "on the hook" to reduce the need for developmental educational coursework, which McFarland called a "very important aspect of completion."

She recalled one attempt during the state's most recent legislative session to eliminate all state funding for developmental or remedial instruction at community colleges.

"(Other lawmakers wanted to) charge K-12 schools for that same instruction," McFarland said.

Neither bill passed, but McFarland said community

colleges have been asked to spend the next two years gathering data to determine which developmental initiatives are most successful.

McFarland thinks the WCCC should let the state's community colleges focus on remedial instruction before moving on to the completion metric idea.

"It will take time to collect data over time to see if our efforts are successful and to establish 'best practices' in this effort," McFarland said. "I'm concerned about major decisions that will cause us to change course without the resources to do so, causing us to take our eye off the ball on those areas that we are already obliged to focus on."

Agreement statewide

She said her colleagues in the state agree.

"College presidents generally believe that the timing is all wrong," McFarland said. "(We) have agreed in principle to develop a consensus position on this issue to present to the college commission."

The WCCC will be discussing the "thorny issue" during its April 19 meeting on the Riverton campus, she said, encouraging trustees to get involved.

"It is absolutely critical for the trustees, as elected officials, to take the lead," she said. "I strongly believe that this has to be a trustee issue. It has to be an issue that trustees grab and get involved in."