It is no secret that fallen energy prices have created a serious revenue shortfall in Wyoming. It is being felt in both public and private sectors throughout our state. Northwest College and the other six community colleges are certainly not immune. In fact, not only are we dealing with cuts in state appropriations, we are also faced with revenue loss from local mill levies as lower oil and natural gas prices and disastrous impacts to the coal industry mean lower county valuations.
At Northwest College, we have responded strategically and proactively to realign expenditures with decreased revenue. That has meant cuts of nearly $3 million for the 2016-17 year. About 75 percent of NWC’s roughly $22.5 million operating fund is composed of employee salaries and benefits. Our $1 million monthly payroll has an enormously positive impact in this area.
We have made both personnel and non-personnel cuts across campus, and believe me, it was painful. Because I often get questions about athletics, I will add that reductions are also being made to athletics. The Board of Trustees implemented our Reduction in Force policy, initiated a one-time special early retirement offering, approved more than $1 million of operating cuts throughout the college, and discontinued three instructional programs—Farrier Business Management, Journalism and Film/Radio/TV. Those decisions, coupled with not filling several positions from resignations or retirements earlier in the year, mean the loss of about 20 employees and reduction of administrative operations.
The three program terminations impact a total of 13 students, all of whom will be allowed to enroll in courses to complete their degree next year as we “teach out” the programs. All scholarships, including those for returning students in those programs and those for students who had planned to enter the programs, are being honored.
Obviously, cuts of this magnitude will unquestionably impact our students, employees, and the communities we serve, but we are being proactive in our communication and deliberate as we transition these changes. It is important to note that while some of our sister colleges are approaching their reductions differently and may defer action until the second year of the two-year funding cycle, Northwest has chosen to execute permanent cuts now, starting July 1, knowing that they will be permanent and ongoing.
Your community college is moving forward with responsible, intentional planning. Strong institutions survive such trials. Northwest College is just that, and we will remain strong.
A year of impressive accomplishmentsAs challenging as it has been from a budget standpoint, 2015-16 was a year of successes. The following is a partial list of accomplishments:
- 4th in the nation on WalletHub’s list of 2015's Best Community Colleges
- In the 98th percentile nationally for students completing and transferring in three years
- 43rd national ranking for our Ag program
- The first Wyoming community college to finalize an initial tier of 17 articulation agreements with the University of Wyoming, giving students assurance that courses they are taking will meet requirements for UW bachelor’s degrees
- A 95.8% pass rate for Registered Nurse graduates on the National Council Licensure Examination, a nationwide examination for licensing nurses
- Improved enrollment, and strong growth in Photography, Criminal Justice and Music
- 1st place among two-year colleges at a prestigious forensics tournament
- 4th-place national volleyball finish
- Top 25 ranking among community college private foundations nation-wide
- Welcomed 300 Big Horn Basin high sophomores at a Career Day on campus where students explored possible careers
- Hosted Sherman Alexie, one of the most acclaimed Native American authors in the country
Continue to expect strong accomplishments from your community college next year.
We are Northwest Strong!