DuBois: Student loss drives finances

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, April 30, 2015

Financial reports from Paul D. Camp Community College show that even as enrollment slowed, the college spent more on administrative costs and required more state support.

In 2006, the college saw an operating loss of about $6.4 million. The same line item has risen nearly 51 percent in the intervening years, totaling nearly $9.6 million in 2014.

The increase in state money the college required to bring its budget even was nearly 10 percent in the same time frame, while operating revenue fell nearly 9 percent.

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Those numbers led to a scathing assessment of the college’s financial situation on March 31, when Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, replaced President Paul Conco three months shy of his announced retirement date.

“The college is facing a number of serious challenges,” DuBois stated in a press release. “Were this college a private enterprise, its financial sustainability would be questionable.”

At the time, Jeffrey Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations, said the challenges mostly stem from a decline in enrollment. About 32 percent fewer students were being educated at Paul D. Camp last year than in 2011. Kraus said the full-time equivalent enrollment — a separate calculation from the actual head count — had fallen 25 percent during the same time period.

Conco started as Paul D. Camp president in July 2010.

Enrollment has declined statewide, college spokeswoman Wendy Harrison noted. But the average decline statewide and at nearby community colleges is dwarfed by that at Paul D. Camp.

In an interview Wednesday at the college’s Franklin campus, where DuBois was scheduled to lead a town hall meeting with local business owners, he continued to say the college’s financial problems stem from enrollment.

“To lose that kind of enrollment drives you to problems,” he said. “It’s the top of the wedding cake. We’ve got to turn that around.”

He noted that Dr. Bill Aiken, interim college president, is “a very capable leader with a proven track record of growing enrollment.”

DuBois said Paul D. Camp is actually one of the leaders among the state’s community colleges in dual enrollment, where high school students take college classes before they graduate. But then those students “go some other place when they graduate high school,” he said.

DuBois said he believes the enrollment challenges can be fixed over time. “It won’t be in a month,” he added.

Meanwhile, state mandates and other rising costs have driven up operating dollars for everybody in the higher education world, he said. Audit standards, health care for employees and physical and cybersecurity are just some of the many contributors to higher administrative costs, he said.

Costs for operation and maintenance also have risen during the period.

Changing economic times also are reflected in the college’s finances, DuBois said. When Paul D. Camp first started, about 80 percent of its operating dollars came from the state, while 20 percent came from tuition.

“The state’s share of that is half of what it used to be,” he said.

One way in which Conco tried to cut costs during his tenure was by utilizing shared services — working together with other community colleges to accomplish “back-room” functions like payroll and financial aid processing in order to save administrative costs.

Some have said they believe the way shared services was implemented and communicated may have played a role in Conco’s departure. A future story will explore that topic further.