OLYMPIA, Wash. - Professors at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) say they don't know whether they'll have classes to teach this fall, and their students have expressed confusion about the way the college administration is handling state budget cuts.
Comparing class schedules from last fall to the coming fall, it looks like there will be more than 100 fewer courses, even though enrollment at the school is at an all-time high.
Kevin Asman, an English professor and president of the teachers' union (AFT-Washington Local 4603) on campus, says many SPSCC students get two-year associate (AA) degrees, then transfer to a university to finish. He says many courses already have long waiting lists, so cutbacks couldn't come at a worse time.
"What it means for even some of our returning students is that they can't get the classes that they need to complete their AA degrees. So, it's going to make transferring to the four-year universities very difficult for them, on the time frame that they would normally be able to do that."
The college says it is only cutting about 30 courses, all in physical education, and that others will be taught if enough students sign up for them. Asman says that approach leaves both students and teachers in the dark until the last minute - and that some students are saying they'll have to enroll elsewhere to ensure they can get the courses they need.
SPSCC Dean of College Relations Kelly Braseth disagrees with what the schedules seem to indicate. She says the college has undergone almost $4 million dollars in state budget cuts in the last three fiscal years, and is expecting at least $1 million more - so, changes were needed.
"We shifted the funding for some 130 or so core sections from being state-supported - which means we get money from the state - to being tuition supported, which means we're using the students' tuition to pay the direct costs of instruction."
According to AFT Washington, the course cuts are concentrated in the areas of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, an indication that the college appears to be shifting away from academics, toward more workforce training. Braseth would not comment on that.