Faced with shrinking state and county support, officials at Baltimore County's three community colleges will raise tuition next year for 35,000 full- and part-time students, the new chancellor of the system said yesterday.
In a meeting with the County Council, Dr. Daniel J. LaVista also said that some administrative employees at the Essex, Dundalk and Catonsville schools will be "dislocated" as the work force is cut. Course offerings, some duplicated at the three campuses, will be reduced, too, he said.
"Positions of some people will be considered expendable," he said. But he was not specific about the number of people who will leave -- either through layoffs or attrition -- nor would he discuss details of increases next fall.
One council member warned that a tuition increase will erode one of the primary missions of community colleges -- serving as gateways for low- and middle-income students to four-year universities. "This isn't keeping with the blue-collar concept these schools were created for," said Councilman Louis L. DePazzo, whose district includes Dundalk. "This gingerbread stuff was never intended. Access, that's why they were built, give kids access."
Baltimore County's community college officials, citing dwindling enrollment, have projected a $2.8 million drop in tuition revenue for the fiscal year that ends in June. About $3 million has been frozen in the budget to cover the shortfall. Maryland legislators, who note similar problems at some of the state's other 18 community colleges, are trying to pump more money into the schools.
Council Chairman Vincent J. Gardina, a critic of Dr. LaVista's move to create additional executive positions in the system, said, "There will be downsizing at the colleges, no doubt about it. We didn't get into specifics because the chancellor needs to fly his plan by the board of trustees."
The board meets Friday and Saturday on a "retreat" in Towson to hear Dr. LaVista's plan for streamlining the system. The meetings are closed to the public and news media.
Among the moves the chancellor said he is considering is closing the health services office at Catonsville. A nurse and part-time physician handle student needs such as emergencies, immunizations and health education.
Dr. LaVista said that by Jan. 1, he and his staff should finish reorganizing the system's finance and administrative offices. "I am committed to doing this as sensitively and humanely as we can," he said. "I want people to land on their feet outside the system."
He added that there will be "dramatic changes in the way colleges are marketed."
A national search is under way for a system director of public relations and a senior director for strategic planning and grant development. Dr. LaVista also plans to hire two vice chancellors, one for finance and administration, and another for planning and information systems. Dr. LaVista called "groundless" criticism that he was creating another layer of bureaucracy. Attrition and transfers will cover the costs of hiring system-level executives, he said.