State budget cuts are hitting community colleges hard

Published: January 13, 2009

The Daily Press

State budget cuts are hitting Virginia’s community colleges at the worse possible time. Enrollment records are being set, with almost 5 percent more students enrolling in the fall of 2008 than did so a year earlier.

Meanwhile community colleges, including Thomas Nelson in Hampton, had their budgets cut by 5 percent in the fall of 2007, another 5 percent in December and are looking at another 5 percent in July for the next fiscal year.

With increased pressure on enrollment and efforts to keep tuition affordable, the system is challenged.

“We won’t change our mission of open enrollment,” said Jeff Kraus, spokesman for the Virginia Community College System. “We’re not closing our doors to anyone. That option’s not on the table.”

He said community college system officials are having a different kind of conversation with lawmakers.

“Not so much here’s what will be cut, but rather here’s what we do now and why we are a vital mechanism to economic recovery for individuals, employers and communities,” Kraus said. “What individuals are going to need to begin or even restart a career. There’s probably a lot of groups making the case for why they need greater funding at this time, and our conversation is a little different than that.”

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