Vice president reveals budget ending in deficits

By Juan Calvillo

East Los Angeles College will continue its work of welcoming back its student population, but will do so while working in a deficit in what is the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years. 

ELAC administrative members went over the college’s current situation from what is working, how the budget is fairing and what students can expect in the future during the school’s State of the College event.

Michael Pascual, Administrative Services vice president, said the budget for the college has two possible outcomes. Both of these outcomes end in a deficit. 

The revised May budget from the Governor’s office cuts the COVID-19 block grant from Prop. 98 from $650 million dollars to about half that. Pascual said a lot of these funds have already been distributed. 

He said how the reduction of money that has already been distributed will be accomplished is a conversation that is ongoing. 

Additionally, maintenance projects that have been deferred were also funded by Prop. 98, these monies have been reduced as well. 

Pascual said the money, very much like the COVID-19 funds, for these deferred projects has all almost already been distributed, and the state will update how a buy-back of these funds will work.

Pascual said there will be a 8.22% increase in Cost of Living Adjustment. 

He said it was important to keep in mind that the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, HEERF, will expire. He said the ending fund balance for ELAC, in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, will be $9.7 million. 

The Los Angeles Community College District will be providing ELAC a budget of $142 million for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, giving a total of about $152 million for ELAC.

Pascual said the decrease in enrollment and the COVID-19 pandemic has created a projected budget deficit for the 2023-24 and 2024-2025 fiscal years. He forecasts a decrease in revenues for 2024-2025 fiscal year. 

He said there are two scenarios for the future fiscal situation for ELAC. These scenarios hinge on the decision of how student bad debt will be handled. 

Bad debt is money students owe to the scholastic institutions they have attended.

“[The] LACCD has discussed the possibility of using the one-time COVID-19 Block Grant to pay off the student bad debt across all [nine] colleges. 

The scenarios were put together to determine what impact it would have on ELAC’s budget. They were specifically for the next two fiscal years under the two scenarios,” Pascual said.

For the budgets to work he said the college would need to make adjustments. He said it will take some time to figure out what is best to do for the budgetary needs of the college and that it would take everyone working together to get it done.

“The college is still at the early stage of discussion on how to best manage the deficit. This is a discussion that needs the involvement of the entire campus community through shared governance,” Pascual said.

He said the budgetary issues do not affect any current initiatives, programs, activities or personnel. He said current student learning is not affected either.

Alberto Roman, ELAC president, said there was work that had to be done, but that the work was not impossible to overcome. 

He said the main idea is that there is a need to tighten the school’s belt.

Roman said there are initiatives that are coming down the pipeline that are positive. The first is a joint effort with two local high schools, Alhambra and Garfield, the State Chancellor’s Office and ELAC. 

This program will provide ninth grade students with the opportunity to learn at a college level with cohorts that would be creating classes for them. These students would be considered dual enrolled in high school and college courses.

“The State Chancellor has selected ELAC for a dual enrollment pilot that would involve providing all high school freshmen with one college course. The pilot will launch in fall 2023.  It would be funded through general funds, but just like any other enrollment growth, we would collect funding from the state for the [Full-Time Equivalent Students] FTES, thus helping our college budget,” Roman said.

FTES are those fulfilling a full-time student unit coverage of 12 units. The students will count by being grouped in four student teams to create the equivalent 12 units.

Miguel Duenas, vice president of Student Services, said there has been a rise in dual enrollment with spring 2022 numbers at 2,930 students and spring 2023 numbers at 3,289 students. This represents chances for high school students to further their scholastic skills with college level classes cheaply and easily.

“State education laws require that these classes be offered at zero cost to the student. We have many students that participate in dual enrollment, some even graduate from high school with an associate degree,” Duenas said.

Duenas said the focus of Student Services with students returning to campus more fully is to provide support and resources. 

He said giving students equitable and high level education is what ELAC is all about.

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