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Smaller college size could mean cut classes

Smaller college size could mean cut classes
Smaller college size could mean cut classes

mediumcollegeWritten by Daze Castillo

After chasing larger enrollment numbers for the last three years, Palomar officials are now putting forward a plan to become a smaller college.

This means Palomar will be losing an annual $1 million dollar, large-college bonus, which some predict will result in fewer classes for students and fewer teaching opportunities for adjunct faculty.

But one official disagrees on how this change will affect Palomar.

Laura Gropen, Palomar’s spokesperson, rejected the idea that the transition will be a considerable threat to adjunct or students.

“We have historically cancelled classes, and historically it has affected adjunct faculty more than regular faculty,” she said, adding that this is in part due to the school having more adjuncts than regular faculty.

Palomar’s reclassification has drawn concern from the faculty union, who will participate in negotiations for next year’s budget. Teresa Laughlin, lead negotiator for the Faculty Federation, said its main goal is to protect teaching opportunities for both adjunct and full-time faculty.

“I’m concerned about wages, benefits and working conditions and evaluations — the mandatory subjects of bargaining,” she said.

The cause for Palomar’s reclassification has been its steadily declining number of Full-Time Equivalent Students, or F.T.E.S. Each F.T.E.S. is equivalent to the credit hours of one full-time student.

According to a presentation sent out by Dan Sourbeer, vice president of instruction, F.T.E.S. projections for the 2015-2016 year will be 2,640 short of being considered a large college. This shortage will result in a four-year transition to medium college status.

For the first three years, the school will continue to get the $1 million bonus even though they won’t reach the 19,880 F.T.E.S. number needed to be defined by the state as a “large” college. The fourth year, Palomar officials will get paid the normal $4,493 per F.T.E.S. but won’t receive the $1 million dollar large-college bonus.

Teresa Laughlin voiced concerns about the total funding that will be lost during the 4-year transition to a medium college. “If it were just a million dollars it wouldn’t be that big of a deal…It’s probably closer to $5 million and it’s ongoing.”

Gropen denied the $5 million projection and described Palomar’s focus toward enrollment stability as the key factor for future budget stability.

“We address enrollment management in a way that we have the right number of classes for the right number of students.” Gropen added that cutting classes is a reality at all colleges at all levels and Palomar plans to help students move into similar classes that meet proper enrollment numbers.

Cutting classes with low student numbers is an enrollment strategy the Faculty Federation agrees with. Laughlin said they want classes with low numbers dropped to maximize the future budget, but are concerned about adjunct faculty being disproportionately affected in the process.

“I think the part-timers are the ones that are most at risk and that’s what upsets me personally,” Laughlin added. “Much of the enrollment management is on the backs of part-time instructors.”

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Smaller college size could mean cut classes