In Focus: Funding Education

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By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

The Accreditation Commission will visit the , Eureka campus Monday to assess if the college has made the grade.

The Accreditation Commission will meet with a 30-person adhoc group, who determined how to handle a possible $4 million shortfall for the 2007-2008 budget.

Although the college is seeking permanent leadership positions to be filled, including a president, it has made considerable progress in technology and management of funds.

In January, the commission decided that the college would continue on with a warning, and produce a progress status report, released in March.

The report included the college's master plan called CR 2020 Education Master Plan, a three-year strategic plan. The plan has several focus areas and, in addition to already existing committees, five committees to facilitate improvements.

Ray Geary, acting vice president of the College of the Redwoods Del Norte Campus, is a member of the adhoc group.

The group was andquot;formulated to look at ways to enhance revenues and address expenses,andquot; Geary said.

andquot;They identified close to $2.6 million worth of expenses that could be curtailed or controlled.andquot; This will reduce the expected deficit.

The master plan also calls for the college to increase enrollment by 2 percent each year.

andquot;Enrollments are relatively flat, but our enrollment at Del Norte has held steady over the Fall and Spring 2007 semesters, with a slight increase this semester,andquot; Geary said.

He attributes the increase to an attention to both adults and youth.

While addressing the needs of adults and the community, the college used partnerships with agencies such as Rural Human Services and the Del Norte Workforce Center.

The college partnered with high schools and was awarded a grant amounting to approximately $300,000 to enhance the healthcare providing industry in the county that gave additional services to nursing students, Geary said.

At the high school level, the college's strategy was to visit senior high school classes and provide information about attending college, an orientation to the campus and free assessment testing for potential classes they could begin taking.

A major contributor to the college's success has been the revamping of technology services.

Technical Advisory Committee Chair John McBrearty, at the Eureka campus, was a critical author of the college's progress report.

andquot;We are using the same database universally with the same screens as all campuses,andquot; he said.

He mentioned that the college uses andquot;integrated technology.andquot; For example, the student identification card system ties into the library system and the meal plan.

The college Website allows students to pay fees and tuition, as well as register for classes. The system does not store credit card information, only a transaction number for security.

During the past three years, the college has moved more content online.

andquot;It saves us overhead and allows us to give better service,andquot; he said.

The college increased the use of multi-media technology this year, creating a webcast of streaming live videos for men's and women's basketball games in Eureka, McBrearty said.

The college created andquot;virtual office hoursandquot; and enhanced their

online courses. andquot;In the past three to four years we have offered online courses. Three years ago we only had one, now we have 20 sectionsa 20 percent growth,andquot; McBrearty said.

andquot;We integrated captioning for deaf students. We spend $60,000 a year, on average, in closed-captioning for pre-recorded material.andquot;

Such material may be a movie or a news segment that students can read at home on the television.

Eilen Abel is interim Chair of the Program Review Committee and acknowledges technology's role in the college's success.

andquot;With budget cuts you have to make choices based on demand as to what happens when, but technology has a big demand,andquot; Abel said.

andquot;The previous program's process was on hiatus for a few years. This year, we meet weekly to come up with processes.andquot;

She explained that the committee was implementing training for the Institution Research Department.

The committee is also andquot;talking to faculty about data such as the number of students in courses and success rates by course.andquot;

She admitted that the committee is working on their processes, pointing out that andquot;it is crucial to make sure they document financial and resource needs.andquot;

andquot;Because we do not have a systematic process in place, we cannot access where it goes,andquot; Abel said.

andquot;Even though we have done program review in the past, it was not consistent.andquot;

The commission will notify the college in June of their assessment and whether or not they will advance to a probation.

Reach Thea Skinner at tskinner@triplicate.com or 707-464-2141

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