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Faculty Worries About WA Community College's Future

Shoreline Community College's dental hygiene program is feeling the effects of the college's budget shortfall. (Wikimedia Commons)
Shoreline Community College's dental hygiene program is feeling the effects of the college's budget shortfall. (Wikimedia Commons)
March 10, 2020

UPDATE: Shoreline Community College says it's proposing to only cut one faculty position and add three. It also says the dental-hygiene program will be off limits from cuts.

SHORELINE, Wash. -- With a budget shortfall looming, faculty members at a Washington state community college are concerned about the future, and say theirs could be a cautionary tale for other colleges.

Shoreline Community College in suburban Seattle anticipates every program could feel the pain as administrators look to make up for $2.3 million in funds. Eric Hamako is a professor of multicultural studies and president of the Shoreline Community College Federation of Teachers, part of AFT. He said cutting programs or faculty may provide some short-term savings ...

"But by doing so, we're really concerned that the college may be killing the goose that lays the golden egg by saving a little bit of money now and cutting something that is really providing for the lifeblood of the college," Hamako said.

According to its proposed budget, Shoreline Community College will only cut one faculty position and add three others. Most of the cuts will come to administrative and classified staff, which will each lose about four positions. The Board of Trustees is also considering cutting the men's soccer team in fall 2020.

Hamako said there are concerns the college is not being transparent with its finances. The state gave nearly $40 million to the college for a new building that would have housed Shoreline's popular dental-hygiene program. But the college then announced the building didn't have room for the program. That prompted lawmakers to threaten to withhold funding. Shoreline responded by saying it would work on a new plan for the building.

Hamako said the college is mismanaging the program, including by failing to admit a new cohort of dental-hygiene students this year.

"The dental hygiene program is really just one example of the way the college is trying to make cuts by balancing it on workers' backs," he said.

Shoreline says this it can't admit a new cohort without a building lined up to house second-year students, in accordance with accreditation guidelines. It also says the program is not being considered in its cuts.

Hamako said the program also is important for the community surrounding the college. It provides dental care for about 2,300 low-income people in the area.

Hamako said these aren't just issues at Shoreline, these are problems that are going on in higher education across the country.

"There's a divestment in good, quality jobs for staff and for faculty and there's a greater investment in raising the salaries of upper administrators and upper-middle managers," he said.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers of Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA