ASHEBORO, N.C. — The President of Randolph Community College says he’s changing his tune when it comes to asking state legislators for money.
Dr. Bob Shackleford believes it’s time for leaders to recognize community colleges as an investment the state needs to fund instead of just another group asking for money.
“Every year we’re told there’s more budget cuts, more budget cuts. We’ve always been able to kind of suck it up and keep on,” explained Dr. Shackleford. “But we’re now past the point of just being able to tighten the belt. It’s at the point now that it’s going to impact jobs, programs, students.”
RCC will be cutting courses, eliminating at least one program and phasing out some full-time positions in order to meet nearly a million dollar budget reduction this year.
Community Colleges across the state will face budget cuts, party because enrollment has decreased or leveled out since last year.
However Dr. Shackleford pointed out that overall, enrollment at state community colleges has increased 26 percent since 2008. He said at the same time, per-student funding has decreased 21 percent.
He said he understands legislators and Governor McCrory have a tough job with the budget.
“But do they want to put people back to work? Increase our workforce for advanced manufacturing and other high-demand industry? We can not accomplish that mission you believe in if we continue to be cut every year. That’s a disconnect,” he insisted.
Dr. Shackleford said another challenge is recruiting and retaining qualified instructors when budget constraint won’t allow RCC to pay competitively.
Even popular programs, like nursing, are having difficulty filling two faculty positions.
“The State Board of Nursing said, well, until you get those positions filled, we do not want you taking any more students into your evening and weekend nursing program for the next year and a half,” said Dr. Shackleford.
That means many nursing students who want to work during the day won’t be able to take night and weekend classes.
“It’s a problem to recruit and retain qualified faculty and staff when your hands are tied behind you in terms of the budget,” he added. “We are not part of the problem, draining the state’s budget. We are part of the solution that needs funding to fix the problem and train North Carolina’s future workforce.”