WCCC officials vow to erase $2.2M deficit
Westmoreland County Community College faces a more than $2.2 million budget deficit but will cut costs and use reserves to balance the spending plan by June, President Tuesday Stanley said Wednesday.
A financial update provided to trustees showed a projected deficit of $1.56 million in September had grown in part because of a drop in enrollment, a 57 percent decrease in county funding and unforeseen expenses in health care and the hiring of an architect for the college’s master plan.
“I will tell you that the institution is not where we’d like to be today with everything, but we will bring forward a balanced budget by June 30,” Stanley told trustees.
To close the budget gap, Stanley said she has delayed or kept open several vacant positions until she gets justification they should be filled.
“Every position is critical. It’s about trying to close this gap and make sure we’re responsible,” Stanley said.
Keeping the positions vacant is expected to save about $410,000, while another $535,000 will be saved by not investing in capital projects. A nearly $800,000 transfer from the college’s hospitalization reserve fund and other smaller cost-saving measures will balance the budget by summer, she said.
“None of these are long-term strategies that we want to employ going forward,” Stanley said.
Trustees approved two contracts on Wednesday with Clarus Corp., totaling $212,500 plus travel expenses of up to $14,000, that aim to help college officials see where and how they can improve enrollment as well as update and revitalize the college brand.
Enrollment for the spring semester stood at 5,023 students, a 7 percent drop from last spring. Community colleges, which typically see enrollment drop when the economy is doing well, are struggling statewide, Stanley said.
Clarus, a Nebraska-based marketing firm that works exclusively with community colleges, will analyze where WCCC is serving the community well, where it needs to better engage with potential students and what markets it should tap into next. The firm will also help officials define WCCC’s identity and how it differs from other competing colleges and will help devise a comprehensive marketing plan, according to the agreement.
“This will be very beneficial for our enrollment,” said trustee Dick Dickert. Approving the contracts shows the college is making an effort to reach out “and really get the word out about WCCC.”
This is the first time the college has hired a firm to do this type of work, said WCCC spokeswoman Anna Marie Palatella. The market research work is expected to be completed by June with the branding and marketing portion wrapping up in August, she said.
Trustees also approved hiring Arkansas-based Ramona Munsell & Associates Consulting to help WCCC develop a Title III grant application for funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
The funds would go toward technology throughout the college and streamline processes for students and staff so money could be reallocated elsewhere, Stanley said.
Under the consulting agreement, WCCC will pay the firm $4,000 upfront for developing the grant proposal and, if successful, the college will pay $40,000 for grant management and technical assistance the first year. WCCC then would pay $35,000 annually for years two through five of the grant.
Stanley said this is another facet of the college’s plan to not only shore up its budget, but be prepared. The college also set a goal of increasing enrollment in workforce development programs at the Advanced Technology Center by 10 percent a year.
Enrollment in those programs grew 20 percent this semester compared to last spring, Stanley said.
Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or [email protected].