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2012 June 25 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Wyo. Community Colleges Could See $9M Cut

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — An 8-percent budget cut would cost Wyoming’s seven community colleges about $9.1 million and would mean cutbacks for nursing and veterans tuition waiver programs.

Falling energy revenues has prompted Gov. Matt Mead to order state agencies to prepare for 8-percent budget cuts for the fiscal year that starts in July 2013.

Wyoming has community colleges in Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan, Powell, Rock Springs, Torrington, Riverton as well as satellite campuses and outreach centers in various communities, including Gillette.

James Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, said each community college board of trustees has the freedom to handle any funding cuts as it sees fit so he can’t speak to whether any college faculty and staff positions would be threatened with layoffs.

“They have a lot of flexibility and authority at the local college level as to how they deal with any reduction in funds,” Rose said. “They can explore a whole variety of strategies in terms of how they will make ends meet if the budget is reduced.”

But Rose said there would be less money for employee health insurance and various WCCC programs, including nursing and veterans’ tuition waivers.

The nursing program includes forgiving student loans if a nursing graduate works in Wyoming for a set period of time, while veterans who receive a combat medal are eligible to have tuition paid for by the state.

The $1.2 million veterans’ tuition waiver program could be cut by $40,000.

“I think it’s one that’s obviously very popular and has a lot of wide support from the governor and the Legislature, but there’s no way for us to exempt a program like from an 8 percent cut or something else is going to have to pick up the slack,” Rose said.

The Wyoming Community College Commission, which coordinates the statewide community college system, doesn’t plan to lay off any of its 16 employees if the 8-percent cut is made, Rose said. Instead, it would slash its marketing program “very severely,” he said.

“It’s a challenge, but we don’t really feel like we have the capacity at this point at least to absorb reduction in force and maintain our level of service,” Rose said.

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