Highline’s budget woes will continue into the next fiscal year due to the economic impact of the global pandemic.
Last summer, a draft of the budget showed a $3.4 million gap of expenses over revenue. Although the state revenue picture has shown some improvement, with current downward trends in funding and enrollment, Highline faces a projected deficit of about $8 million.
While Highline saw a brief surge in enrollment in the days leading up to the current academic quarter, the college has seen a significant drop in enrollment from students in comparison to the previous year.
Domestic and Running Start numbers are down this year as numerous students elect to take a gap year or stay home, while the biggest blow comes to the tune of about $1.9 million lost in international enrollment.
“The decline in enrollments has significant impact on our budget and our operations,” said Vice President for Administration Michael Pham. “As noted in the budget book, we are planning cuts of over $8 milion.”
The Budget Book is a comprehensive illustration of the ins and outs of the 2020-2021 fiscal year regarding Highline. The book lays out not only where the money comes from and where it goes, but also the quantity and use.
Dr. John Mosby, president of Highline College, says that this year the budget book was much more of a collective effort.
“As president, I ultimately make the decisions based on the recommendations that I’m given,” said Mosby. “However, what we are doing differently this year is I had asked that we create a budget advisory council.”
The council in question is made up of representatives from the Faculty Senate, Student Services Division, Academic Affairs Division, Administrative Services Division, and other parts of Highline.
“They make recommendations based on their observations, their information, [and] their conversations with campus representatives,” Dr. Mosby said.
According to the budget, “International Student enrollment is expected to take a significant cut this year due to COVID-19 as well as very restrictive visa requirements.”
Highline is projecting a 40 percent loss of revenue from international enrollment compared to the 2019-2020 fiscal year, bringing the projection down to only $2.1 million.
Revenue generated from tuition is around $11 million, which is down 10 percent from last year, reflecting a decline in enrollment.
Another large source of income for the college is the allocations from the state of Washington, this year projected around $36.2 million, making up 48 percent of Highline’s revenue.
Expenses for travel will take a noticeable hit following limited mobility resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to last year, travel is reduced to $144,000, a 75 percent decrease.
Faculty faces a budget reduction of “approximately $1.1 million to $19.5 million” according to the budget, with staff seeing a 3 percent reduction to $8.6 million.
Staff will have eight unpaid furlough days over the next year, with the first occurring back in mid-October.
These days are mandatory days off that count as unpaid leave. Apart from days prior to major holidays, most furloughs will be on Fridays, concluding the school week a day early.
“Our budget development process has been particularly challenging due to the pandemic and the state budget crisis.” The budget says, “This budget proposal unfortunately reflects those realities and includes reductions with various impacts on our employees, students, and services.”
“We were given a task from the state to identify a budget with a 15 percent cut, which is significant,” said Dr. Mosby.
Dr. Mosby said that Highline has been forced to make many adjustments in a short amount of time because of the pandemic.
“We had to go overnight and really change our institution,” he said, “change how we taught and change how we did programs.”
He says that while the task at hand may be a challenging one, his priority going into the budget process was to do what is best for the staff and students at the college.
“We have to make tough decisions,” said Dr. Mosby. “But I don’t want to compromise our students…also, we’re trying to preserve the jobs of our staff and faculty at the institution.”
Updates on the college’s budget situation can be found at https://adminservices.highline.edu/budget-office/ .