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Coconino Community College Braces For Student And Revenue Declines

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Public universities aren’t the only higher learning institutions facing steep budget cuts and enrollment drops as many students defer going to college because of the coronavirus outbreak. Coconino Community College is planning for at least a 10 percent decrease in students this fall, and leaders have begun to plan for how to contend with a decline in revenue. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius caught up with CCC President Colleen Smith to talk about how the school plans to adapt.

Ryan Heinsius: How will a possible enrollment drop affect how CCC operates in the fall?

Colleen Smith: We’re a small college and tuition is extremely important for being able to do what we do. But within those plans we also then have other contingencies like waiting to determine if we will cut back on all travel, you know, a variety of things like that. And then also, making determinations about, well, will we need to combine some sections of some classes? And so, just with a variety of things we’ve planned and we have our contingencies set up.

RH: Is part of that contingency looking at furloughs, pay cuts or layoffs as the public universities in the state have?

CS: At this time we are not planning any of that. We started planning early so that we would not have to do furloughs or cut positions–this is for fulltime positions. Now, some of our part-time faculty or part-time positions we can’t guarantee at this point. We are not planning to cut any of that but that is something that could happen once we go through all of our other contingencies and plans, that could end up happening.

RH: Is it your sense that other community colleges in the state are reacting in a similar way?

CS: Right now from what I understand there are two community colleges who are considering that they may have to do either lay people off or the furloughs, but the majority of the community colleges are making other decisions rather than laying people off and really just working in a different way.

RH: As in-person instruction resumes, how will you balance student and employee safety with maintaining the quality of education?

CS: You know, we don’t have two or 300 people in a lecture hall ever. So if you take a class that needs to have the hands-on lab portion of the class, instead of meeting that particular lab once we’ll schedule it more than once so that we can have 10 or fewer people in the lab at a time. Some of the other classroom things–part of the class will be participating with Zoom and then part of the class in-person. And then the instructor can work that around so that all of the students at some point in time do get to come in in-person. Depending what the class is and when it’s offered they’ve got a variety of different plans that they’re using in academic affairs and they’re working all of that out right now.

RH: How do you predict the COVID-19 pandemic will impact CCC in the long-term?

CS: Not only is it a challenge for us, it’s a challenge to our students. And I think that that challenge helps all of us not only be prepared going into the future but it also helps our students, our college community, our employees, it helps all of us develop that resiliency and develop that idea that, yes, we can do this. I think it’s a challenge but it’s also an opportunity to help everyone learn new skills, new ways of coping, new ways of learning.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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