Budget woes: Highline hits low line in enrollment
By Jacob Getty - Staff Reporter
Highline's declining enrollment numbers are beginning to affect its budget.
Even though Highline's overall budget remains the same, declining enrollment numbers have softened the college's revenue outlook, but officials do not expect to cut spending as a result.
"Revenues are not as strong as they have been in the past," said Cathy Cartwright, Highline's director of financial services.
Tuition paid by students is $11.2 million, which makes up 17 percent of Highline's budget.
Today, 4,500 FTEs, or full- time equivalents, are enrolled at Highline, compared to 4,985 a year ago at this time.
There are 354 international students compared to 493 last year, and 1,476 Running Start students compared to 1,506. Overall, student enrollment has decreased by 9 percent.
"This decline is in part due to the economy causing people to work instead of attending college," Cartwright said.
"Enrollment in the community college system is cyclical. When the economy is bad, enrollments are usually great because rather than work, people go to school to improve their skills so that they can hopefully find work," said Cartwright. "Up until last year, we have held our own, but we are now finally feeling the impact of a good economy." This has been true for most
community and technical colleges across the country, she said. "Enrollment in the community and technical college system as a whole has been down for several years," said Cartwright. Highline's revenue is not what it used to be, but so far has not affected what Highline spends.
"Everything is pretty much the same as last year," said Cartwright.
Cartwright made the annual budget report at last month's Board of Trustees meeting.
"Highline has budgeted around $66 million on the revenue side, and $65 million on the expense side," said Cartwright.
Highline revenue comes from $29 million from funds allocated by the state, which is 44 percent of the budget; $11.2 million from tuition paid by students, which is 17 percent of the budget; $12.6 million from local contracts like Running Start and international student programs, which is 19 percent of the budget; $7.3 million from grants and contracts, which is 11 percent of the budget; and $6 million from student fees,
bookstore revenue, parking, and food services, which is 9 percent of the budget.
"The majority of our expense is payroll and benefits. We have budgeted almost $45 million for these categories," said Cartwright. "The balance of the budget is spent on supplies, contracted services, equipment, travel and other miscellaneous things."
Highline's funding is dependent on how many students enroll.
"Money we receive from the state is based on how many students enroll," Cartwright said.
"If we do not hit the required enrollment, we might not get our funding."
Highline's financial services are doing their best to find ways to help save Highline money, she said.
"We implemented a new way to disburse financial aid checks through BankMobile for Fall Quarter. Instead of having to wait for a paper check to arrive in the mail, students now have the opportunity to elect to have the financial aid deposited di- rectly into a bank account, thus speeding up access to funding," Cartwright said.