News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

Date: March 17, 2003 (03-24)
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

Montgomery College President Reacts to County Exec’s Budget
Dr. Nunley Expresses Concern that Combined State, County Funding Gaps
Could Lead to Even Steeper Tuition Hikes than Those Already Planned
 

            In response to today’s release of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan’s fiscal year 2004 operating budget, Dr. Charlene R. Nunley, president of Montgomery College, issued the following statement:

“For us at Montgomery College, we’re suffering from what is pretty much a classic one-two punch. First, the impact of State budget cuts – with the Governor’s recent reduction in our funding for both this year and next – and now, no increase in County funding.  Add to this the growth in public school graduates who will begin at Montgomery College over the next several years, and our circumstances seem pretty grim.

We fully recognize the realities of the current fiscal climate and the extent of the deficits facing our County and State governments, whose funding accounts for fully two-thirds of our operating revenue, as a community college. We know what a difficult task our State and County elected officials have in balancing their respective budgets, given the current economic situation and the dramatic decline in revenues. We certainly respect the challenge that faced the County Executive in the preparation of his budget.

But at a time when our enrollment is continuing to rise, it’s becoming increasingly difficult – without adequate funding -- for us to preserve the quality of our academic programs and services that our students and our community have come to expect.  At Montgomery College, our credit-hour enrollment reached an all-time high this fall, growing by nearly 16 percent over the last six years.  Our growth in credit hours in this time period is comparable to the total size of several community colleges, including, for example, Hagerstown and Chesapeake.  We face the added challenge of absorbing that growth within our current campuses.  And unlike the public schools, our State aid did not increase to accommodate these new students – in fact, it was reduced.

Due to its own State cuts, the University System of Maryland is currently reviewing its campus enrollment projections and is likely to reduce them.  If so, they will turn more students away and that would mean more students would begin their studies at the community colleges.  We don’t want to face the prospect of turning students away from a community college, which is the primary open-access vehicle for higher education.  If we don’t have adequate funds to hire faculty, we will not have a choice.

It’s also difficult to conceive of putting even more of the financial burden on the backs of our students, who have already absorbed sizeable tuition increases in each of the last couple of years. As it is, our students were already facing the prospect of a 6-percent increase for next year, in the budget request our Board of Trustees sent to the County Executive.  Our full-time students already pay over $3,000 a year to attend Montgomery College.  A massive tuition hike could put higher education out of reach for those who need us the most – and that would be a tragedy.

However, given the Executive’s recommendation -- some of which is predicated on State revenue that will likely not be there, as a result of the recent cuts – even those planned tuition increases will still not be enough to enable us to balance our budget. The bottom line is that, as things now stand, the only additional revenue we would have for next year would come from tuition revenue, and even that will not be enough to support the modest budget request that we have put forth, simply to keep up with our growth in enrollment.

Like all public agencies, we have tightened our belts to realize significant budget savings over the past year and a half. But further savings will be hard to come by without eliminating programs or services and severely impacting our ability to provide the classes, technology and professional development that our additional students and our faculty will need.  Our anticipated State reductions alone over a two-year period total $2.4 million – the equivalent of our entire Health Science Department funding!

Again, we truly appreciate the challenges facing both our County and State officials, and we recognize the magnitude of the budget crisis. But in the interests of our students -- many of whom for which, without a Montgomery College, there would be no other realistic option to pursue their educational dreams -- we’ll continue to press on to make our case for additional County and State support.”

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