The labor union representing faculty at Seattle Colleges says the system’s Culinary Academy, Maritime Academy, Wood Technology, PACT, and Apparel Design and Development school will remain open through the fall quarter buying the important programs much needed time to secure long term funding amid a growing budget crunch.
“Sustainable funding still needs to be secured for these programs for 2023 and beyond,” the statement posted Wednesday night by AFT Seattle reads. “Faculty & Staff at Seattle Colleges are still demanding fair wages and transparency when decisions about programs are made. The fight’s not over yet!”
CHS reported here on the falling enrollment and dipping budget forecasts faced by the college system that includes Capitol Hill’s Seattle Central. Total enrollment of full time students in the Seattle College’s three campus system fell to just over 15,000 in the 2019-2020 school year continuing a longer term pattern that has seen full-time enrollment drop 15% in five years. Seattle Central’s lucrative international student enrollment has also cratered. The schools won’t close — “In my 24 years in the state of Washington, no community college in the system has closed its doors,” a spokesperson told CHS — but they could see major cutbacks.
A budget committee working to set recommendations to help the colleges overcome the budget shortfalls had been expected to release its proposals on the popular programs. The faculty union says the school’s administration has recommended cuts.
With forecasts showing Seattle Central on track to lose nearly $10 million in the 2021-2022 school year under the previous budget and policies, school officials are considering strategies including growing enrollment, cutting 15% of administration, — and “restoring” class size by reducing the number of classes offered and available instructors and by cutting its two-year vocational programs.
Wednesday, students and faculty held a march to raise awareness and to call on the school to keep the programs alive.
The new reprieve buys time for the programs and schools to jockey for state and system funding while also seeking outside support. Seattle Central’s Seattle Culinary Academy has an 80-year history and produces talent that powers kitchens across Capitol Hill, the city, and the country. The program is popular — and successful, boasting a 97% job placement rate — “We say more than 100%, because our students are being offered multiple jobs,” a representative told the Seattle TImes.
Other cutbacks and closures could hit the Wood Technology Center in the Central District at 23rd and Lane. The center offers training in the building trades including programs in residential carpentry and boat building and repair.
Seattle Central’s Apparel Design & Development program is also at risk.
The Broadway school is moving forward, meanwhile, with plans for campus growth including a new technology building.
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