© 2011 Idaho Press-Tribune

NAMPA — Enrollment at the College of Western Idaho continues to rise each semester with more than  7,100 students enrolled for the spring semester in a unofficial count.

School officials are concerned that number will continue to rise while state funding drops. Projected numbers indicate the community college could hit or surpass its capacity of 8,400 this fall.

At the most-recent Board of Trustees meeting, CWI President Bert Glandon and the trustees discussed the implications of a reduced budget and continued student growth.

Budget issues arise

The Nampa-based college requested $3.7 million from the state for enrollment growth, which Gov. Butch Otter’s budget recommendation did not include.

Community colleges across the state saw a 1.7 percent decrease in funding for general education programs, and professional-technical programs saw no increase or decrease.

Glandon told trustees that paying for growth would be difficult with no funds to support it, which a memo to the trustees from Budget Director Jeff Shinn supported.

“Paying for enrollment growth will continue to be a challenge without increasing state support,” the memo said.

The document specified that the budget for the current fiscal year supported 1,500 full time students. In fiscal year 2012, 2,800 full-time students are projected, which leaves an unfunded gap of 1,300 students. This gap represents the $3.7 million requested but not recommended by Gov. Butch Otter.

Trustees debate levy

The board discussed whether they would go to residents of the College of Western Idaho District — Canyon and Ada counties — to request a levy to fund growth in the short term.

Vice Chairwoman M.C. Niland of Nampa said she did not know if people would support a levy, not because of a lack of support for CWI but linked to the hardships of the recession.

“It’s been a rough couple of years,” she said.

The trustees and Glandon agreed that public sentiment should be gauged before a levy vote is planned, and they considered a poll to determine if local residents would support a levy.

How to support growth

Glandon said that if CWI enrollment continues to grow beyond levels the school can support, he would not recommend a cap on enrollment, because the need for courses is clearly present in the community. However, this would mean some students would not be able to find a spot in needed classes, unless funding is found to expand services.

Glandon will present these issues to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Wednesday, although he said he’s not hopeful any changes to the recommended budget would be approved.

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