By RAYGAN LOPEZ
Amarillo College is facing budget cuts due to a drop in students attending AC.
“We lost 8% of our enrollment and are projected to lose $2 million in state funding over the next two years as a result,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, president of AC said.
Lowery-Hart said the budget cut will have no effect on students, instruction, or staff. The budget cut was simply due to the pandemic and its influence on enrollment.
“We’ve found ways to ensure the budget cuts do not affect our current employees or our current services to students. It shouldn’t mean anything for our future programs. We will move forward with the programs we have and hopefully even add something that will grow our enrollment and budgets over the next three years,” Lowery-Hart said.
Although other programs are closing due to other reasons there will be a new addition of programs coming to AC with hopes of rising enrollment.
“New programs include VFX, Film Performance, Motion Picture Production and Construction Trades/ Carpentry,” Frank Sobey, associate vice president of academic affairs said.
Sobey said Mortuary Science, Medical Data Specialist and Pharmacy Tech will be closing. The Dental Assisting program will be deactivated and may be reactivated within three years of the deactivation date.
“For each of these programs, the decision to close or deactivate was not a result of budget constraints. No new student cohorts will be accepted. However, current students who are already admitted in these programs will have the opportunity to complete,” Sobey said.
Sobey said the chosen programs were being closed due to low enrollment, the opportunities or lack thereof provided to students and the programs’ viability.
“The Mortuary Science program is closing due to losing its accreditation through the American Board of Funeral Service Education in summer 2020. The Medical Data Specialist program historically has been a small program that no longer meets healthcare needs,” Sobey said.
Sobey said the Pharmacy Tech program has also been historically small and is no longer necessary as there are other options for students to become certified pharmacy technicians. However, the Dental Assistant program is being deactivated because the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners not requiring formal education to work as a dental assistant.
“As a community college, particularly one focused on student success, our goal, especially for our workforce programs, is to give students the ability to find a high or living wage job,” Sobey said.
Lowery-Hart said students shouldn’t see any direct impact of the budget cuts. AC has been preparing for cuts and some CARES ACT funds to help other shortfalls.
“We’ve done this by having departments cut their budget by 5%. We are not cutting any personnel,” Chris Sharp, vice president of business affairs said. “Categories such as travel, supplies, alterations and improvements are areas that we’ve cut. We’re awaiting word from the state as to how much our funding will be for the next two years. We’ll budget for the worst and see where our numbers settle from the state,” Sharp said.
Ultimately the decisions being made are with hopes of benefiting current and future students of AC. “With the vaccine, students will feel more comfortable coming back to Amarillo College. I am confident in our future and am not panicked about our budgets because we’ve been so financially effective,” Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart said.