SCC Trustees Approve Cost Saving Measures


At a special meeting last Friday, the Southeastern Community College Board of Trustees discussed a series of measures to help the college meet its budget targets for the upcoming year. Measures include staff reduction and a tuition increase.

SCC President Dr. Michael Ash brought forth the plan to keep expenses in line with tuition revenues.

Ash told board members that officials have been able to deal with budget challenges over the past few years by tapping into savings and by not replacing positions vacated by retirements and resignations.

“We didn’t fill empty positions again this year but it still wasn’t enough to cover the shortfall, so we had to take more drastic measures to balance the budget. This plan does that with the least impact on our overall operation and quality of education.”

Ash’s proposal included a reduction of seven faculty positions and raising the credit hour tuition from $165 to $176.

After all other cost-saving measures had been factored into the estimated operating budget of $22 million, officials still faced a shortfall of $400,000.

“We’ve wrestled with all sorts of ideas, and none of them were good. These are the best recommendations we can make in this situation,” Ash told the Board.

The proposal calls for two retiring faculty members to not be replaced, two open faculty positions to not be refilled, and three current faculty contracts to be terminated. Board approval was only required for the termination of faculty contracts.

Trustees approved the termination of the three contracts: an art instructor, a welding instructor, and a chemical dependency counselor instructor.

Trustees decided to delay action on the tuition hike until it knew total amount of funding SCC will receive from the state.

 “All community colleges are in the same boat. Enrollment is down pretty much across the board and state dollars are tough to come by. Community colleges are hoping to get around $3 million in new money. Our share of that is only $129,000 and I’m not very optimistic that will be the final number. That’s not even enough to cover the increase in our health care costs,” Ash said.

Ash adds that other community colleges are forecasting tuition hikes of $6 to $10 per credit hour. Even with the proposed increase, SCC’s tuition is expected to stay near the average cost of Iowa’s 15 community colleges, which currently sits at $164.

Ash explained that community college enrollment often follows the unemployment rate. As unemployment goes down, enrollment goes down.

“As the economy improves and companies start hiring workers, people often opt for a job over an education. While we know going to college can be beneficial for them in the long run, it’s hard for someone to turn down the chance to make money right now. It’s good for the area but it puts the college in a tight spot.”

Ash said that the college has been focused on ways to boost enrollment to attract and retain students. 

“That’s why we’re putting up new buildings. We have to compete with other colleges. People want modern facilities and the construction in West Burlington and Keokuk are long overdue. SCC’s history of being frugal has put us behind when it comes to investing in modern facilities,” Ash explained.

Ash was quick to point out that the new buildings are not being funded at the expense of layoffs. Facility and infrastructure improvements are funded by state and federal programs, gifts to the College, and local voter-approved levies. They are separate from SCC’s operating budget that covers salaries and day-to-day expenses. The new residence hall coming to SCC’s West Burlington campus will be a public-private partnership in which private developers will incur the cost of construction.

“We will get through this. Every college goes through enrollment cycles. I know that doesn’t make it any easier right now for those affected,” Ash said.

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