Nearly every person in our community has been touched by Laramie County Community College. Perhaps you graduated from LCCC, took a few classes, or your child attended. If not one of those, maybe the radiology or sonography tech, medical assistant, or nurse who recently treated you was a graduate of LCCC. Or the auto technician who fixed your car, your child’s teacher, or the paralegal at your attorney’s office is an LCCC graduate. We know we don’t need to tell you that LCCC is woven into the very fabric of our community.
What you may not know is that some of the very things you value about LCCC are likely to go away. Due to Wyoming’s budget crisis and continued budget cuts, state funding to LCCC has been reduced by more than 25% since 2016. Last fall we had to cut $8 million from our biennial budget and eliminate nearly 11% of our employees.
Since 2016, part-time faculty have been reduced by almost 30% - significantly reducing the number and frequency of course offerings. We had to close more than 20 degree and certificate programs and suspend offering another 14. We closed our outreach centers at Warren Air Force Base and in Eastern Laramie County, taking the ease of access to higher education away from our military personnel and families and those in rural Wyoming.
Yet the cost of doing business only continues to increase. While we’ve fought to avoid placing the financial burden on students, to minimize the loss of programs and services, the Wyoming Community College Commission has unfortunately felt compelled to raise tuition nine times over the past 10 years. This has increased the cost to students by nearly 100% over the past decade.
We know the success of Wyoming’s economic and social future depends on the educational attainment of its citizens, requiring some training or education beyond high school. Personal and state economic growth are directly related to post-secondary attainment. Individuals with a college credential are less likely to be unemployed and earn substantially more over their lives than those with a high school diploma.
Yet with the “cut, cut, cut” mentality that seems to prevail in the Legislature, decreasing revenues from a struggling energy sector, and the trend of pricing students and families out of a higher education, we are moving in the wrong direction. If we stay on this path, there will be fewer programs and services available, and those that survive will cost more and more for you to benefit from them. Perhaps that is alright if our goal is to cut government, if we’re okay with fewer opportunities for future generations, and if we don’t mind having fewer nurses, technicians, teachers, etc. to take care of us.
We understand Wyoming’s state revenue picture is dire, and the state’s tax system is unbalanced and unsustainable. However, the tax rates we currently pay are below that of similar states, suggesting capacity exists for increases to support the state’s needs.
In addition, Wyoming community colleges support students who come from, and return to, every county. LCCC helps build the workforce of all Wyoming counties. Yet only seven counties provide local funding for community colleges.
Wyoming’s community colleges are part of the solution for the state’s future, and our citizens, businesses, and elected officials are asking more and more from us. For us to respond, we need sustainable funding options.
On behalf of the citizens who elected us to govern and represent their community college, we approved a resolution urging the Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign into law, legislation that would do just that. Right now, that means holding off on further budget cuts and providing one-time resources to help launch new, needed programs. In the long-term, it means providing more options for local communities to support their colleges, implementing actions that would allow counties that do not directly support the colleges to do so, and to consider other methods of providing sustainable funding for community colleges.
To preserve the quality of our community colleges, and support our students, we ask that you talk to your legislators. Let them know LCCC is important to you, that you have a personal stake in the success of LCCC. Remind them that LCCC has always been a place we could count on to deliver in tough times, as well as good times. Remind them that in a crisis such as this, LCCC is positioned to respond more quickly to help business and students. Ask them to continue to support LCCC and all Wyoming community colleges. Let them know you don’t want them to cut the solution.
Laramie County Community College Board of Trustees: Don Erickson, Jess E. Ketcham, Brenda Lyttle, Carol Merrell, Bob Salazar, Wendy J. Soto, and Janine Thompson