LEWISTON - After communicating with all directly affected employees, Lewis-Clark State College administrators released information on Monday regarding the impact financial challenges will have on community-connected institution programming.
Beginning the year with a pre-existing $1 million budget deficit and a plan to remedy it, LC State administrators say the 2019-20 academic year presented a perfect storm due to significant reductions in state funding coupled with financial and enrollment challenges brought on by COVID-19. The college’s hiring freeze and preemptive internal budget cuts, which were initiated in September of 2019 and proved to be well timed, helped the institution weather much of the storm, however, challenges in the spring have necessitated further cuts.
“Because LC State is already such a lean operation, because our faculty and staff are truly our greatest resources, and because our programs mean so much to so many, the elimination of programs and personnel was an absolute last resort,” LC State President Cynthia Pemberton said. “We weighed all options and carefully made every decision, but that doesn’t make them any easier. At the end of the day, despite these challenges and changes, LC State remains resilient and strong, and it will continue to serve students, the community, and Idaho with the same excellence, dedication, and care it is known for.”
In response to these financial challenges, over the course of the past year-plus, LC State’s staff of around 450 employees has been reduced by nearly 60 full-time positions (the majority through decisions not to fill vacant and/or retirement positions), including 25 in the most recent round of reductions related to COVID-19. Programs have also been discontinued and/or reorganized.
Across campus areas and units, reductions and reorganizations have been necessary. To identify areas for reduction, instructional programs, administrative units, and student services and supports were evaluated based on multiple factors including the balance between enrollments, completions and overall program costs; staffing levels; and the ability to continue to serve students.
Due to low enrollments, completions and overall program costs, the school’s associate’s degree program in engineering will be discontinued. Administrators say the program was not sustainable and will work with the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) to teach-out current students and formally close the program. Options for prospective students are being explored, including directing them to the engineering technology program in the Technical & Industrial Division which offers degrees in geographic information science as well as civil and mechanical engineering technology.
Likewise, LC State’s administrative management program, which has experienced declining interest over the years, will be closed, and current students taught-out compliant with SBOE and NWCCU guidelines. Individuals interested in developing administrative management skills will be directed to other Career & Technical Education majors such as the administrative medical assistant program. Also, short term, focused training opportunities are available through LC State Workforce Training.
The Outreach Centers in Grangeville and Orofino have both been subject to significant programmatic reductions. Administrators say this change will reduce the college’s dedicated on-site presence, but that LC State grant-funded Adult Learning Center (GED) services and supports will be maintained, along with efforts to increase remote education services.
LC State’s Continuing Education programming has been discontinued in both Grangeville and Orofino, as well as the LC Valley. The Center for Arts & History will continue to run some educational programming along with featured exhibits. Kids’ College, an LC State summer program run via the Center for Arts & History will also be discontinued.
“Lewis-Clark State College has faced many challenges throughout its history and persevered, and we will continue this legacy,” said Pemberton. “This fall we will embrace a ‘new normal’ inclusive of face-to-face instruction adapted to social distancing and supported through online modalities. Our students will continue to learn, graduate and succeed as they have for the past 127 years – and our partnership with the community will continue to flourish, albeit in some new ways.”