Board of Trustees discuss student equity, '19-'20 budget
In the boardroom of the Santa Monica College (SMC) Business building, the 2019-2020 school year officially kicked off with another Board of Trustees meeting on the evening of Wednesday, September 4.
Among many topics discussed, VIP Welcome Day was addressed early in the meeting during the Superintendent's report. Brenda Benson, an employee at the college, talked about the success of VIP Welcome Day, reporting that among those who attended, 95 percent would recommend the experience to a friend.
Following was Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Tuitasi with back to school activities. Tuitasi praised the success of the new student services building. However, he brought up concerns that the new parking structures are bringing an increase of traffic from the Pearl Street side of SMC’s main campus to Pico.
“It still wasn't as bad as we expected,” said Tuitasi. “But due to the parking that’s opened on Pico, we do see a transition.”
In enrollment, SMC is continuing to see a decline in domestic non-residents as well as international students.
“We’re nearly 13 percent behind last year,” said Teresita Rodriguez, SMC’s Vice President of Enrollment Development, in regard to the declination. “The largest decline we're seeing is in domestic non-residents.”
Chair Margaret Quiñones-Perez was quick to point out that the decline could be attributed in part to the interim leadership in day-to-day operations.
Trustee Louise Jaffe added, “I thought the report on international education was very interesting and fairly terrifying, because we have enormous exposure to loss of Chinese students given the delightful negotiation process that our countries seem to be partaking in.”
Of the major items of business, the Student Equity Plan was at the vanguard. The Student Equity Plan aims to address data indicating that SMC is not serving their Latinx and African American students as well as their white counterparts.
Last meeting, a report of the Student Equity Plan was presented to the board, and the board firstly addressed the changes made to last month's summary of the plan. Chair Quiñones-Perez added her appreciation to the committee responsible for the Equity Plan before Trustee Jaffe addressed some concerns.
“I was kind of taken aback to see no changes at all in any of the language” Jaffe said. She added, “From my perspective, it would’ve been a pretty easy job for you to have modified a few sentences and in some way acknowledged at least our input here.”
Jaffe continued to express her doubts on the plan’s effectivity to change “hearts and minds” and called for a continuation of actual changes.
Chair Quiñones-Perez was quick to comment on Jaffe’s concerns about the language in the summary.
“If you have minor tweaks that doesn't change any methodology on here, putting in a couple words in some place, then you can bring that to the board,” said Quiñones. “But I also want you to bear in mind to be fair to people’s work.”
As the meeting trailed onward, the board found itself at the foot of the long anticipated presentation of the 2019-2020 Proposed Adopted Budget. The presentation itself was headed by none other than fifteen year veteran of the very same budget presentations and Vice President of Business and Administration, Christopher Bonvenuto. Speaking confidently, Bonvenuto took the Board of Trustees and the audience alike on a walk through the proposed budget plans for the 2019-2020 school year.
On the topic of changes in the Student Centered Funding Formula (SCFF) the Hold Harmless provision the college falls under has been extended for another year. The budget is assuming a seven percent decline in non-resident full time equivalency students (Nr FTES). Since the school has not increased fees in anticipation of the decline, SMC faces a projected loss of $2.3 million.
This projected drop would contribute to a now five year decline in enrollment of Nr FTES, which totals in a 16 percent five year total drop in the population of those particular students at SMC.
Among the budget presentation was a proposed $2 million to address the college’s $1.3 million dollar Student Bad Debt. Student Bad Debt is accumulated when a student signs up for a class and postpones payment, and does not return the following semester, which is the stipulation in postponing payment.
The loss is added to the Student Bad Debt which the school continues to allow because of the financial barriers some students have. Allowing students to use such a system has financial benefits to the school as it draws in more students thus increasing full time equivalency (FTES).
Bonvenuto said, “Normally we budget $700,000 for bad debt in that area. Two years ago, that number spiked to about $1.7 million.”
Anticipating this increase as a one-time event, there was no increase to the original budget of $700,000 budget in 2018-19. Now in the 2019-2020 budget, Bonvenuto is proposing to increase the Bad Student Debt budget to $2 million.
The SMC Board of Trustees voted to implement the 2019-2020 budget unanimously.