SOWELA warns of effects of proposed budget cuts

The following is a Press Release from Sowela Technical Community College:

Proposed double-digit cuts in state funding to SOWELA Technical Community College would reduce staffing, limit course offerings and jeopardize progress toward accreditation process at the fastest-growing higher-ed institution in the state, SOWELA officials said Tuesday.

The comments came in response to a proposed 28.6 percent cut in general-fund state dollars for SOWELA-- an idea being considered by legislators looking for cuts to balance the state budget.

The proposed net cut would be $1.7 million, or 13 percent of SOWELA's overall budget.

"The proposed cuts could critically impact our ability to perform our core mission, to train and prepare residence for the workforce," said Dr. Michael A. Elam, Sowela's interim chancellor. "These proposed cuts are so deep that it may also reduce student access to higher education with the reduction in available classes and personnel."

By illustration, the college's non-personnel budget base is $2.7 million. That portion of the budget most cover mandated spending, such as insurance, audit fees, utilities, necessary repairs and maintenance -- as well as the equipment and supplies for the classrooms, according to Jeanine Newman, vice chancellor of finance.

Such a cut would mean eliminating some positions on campus -- including both permanent and adjunct faculty -- and reducing the number of classes offered, according to college officials.

As a result, SOWELA officials said, the cuts would delay graduation for some students, result in larger class sizes, reduce opportunities for academic advising and threaten the college's progress toward accreditation.

SOWELA is currently in the process of earning accreditation from Southern Association for Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting agency. The proposed budget cut might mean the reduction or elimination of services that are required by SACS for accreditation.

The proposed state budget cuts come at time when SOWELA has completed an academic year marked by record enrollment and is building three new educational facilities on campus.

The state Legislature is currently considering the cuts -- as well as public input -- as part of overall budget work that must be completed by June 4.