Cuesta OKs major cuts to school’s offerings

The Cuesta College Board of Trustees unanimously voted Wednesday night to eliminate 10 programs, reduce 12 others and suspend one to prevent major budget cuts in the future.

The changes will save the college $764,275 annually.

The programs eliminated include: agriculture technology, culinary arts, real estate, physical science, fashion design and merchandising, hospitality, work experience/workplace readiness, vocational ESL, digital art and dance.

Classes in those programs will be phased out over the next year, starting in the spring semester. Some classes will be offered on a temporary basis to allow students near completing those programs to do so.

The 12 programs slated for modification will be dramatically reduced in size with fewer class sections offered. Those programs include music-audio, drama, German, French, legal, computer and networking technology, broadcast communications, library/information technology, construction technology, computer applications, office administration, electronics and electrical technology, and architecture.

The interior design program will be suspended for the next year.

Cuesta College President Gil Stork said none of the programs were being done away with because they were not valuable to students.

“We have to decide which programs we can do without,” Stork said. “The issue now is which finger can you afford to get along without — none of those are good choices.”

Stork said the changes were necessary to ensure that the remaining programs remain viable. In the past four years, more than 500 class sections have been canceled, Stork said.

“If we continue this trend, we will have 74 programs of mediocre service to students,” Stork said.

About 45 part-time instructors will lose work each semester. No full-time instructors will lose their jobs.

“We hope this is the last of the major reductions we have to do,” Stork said. The purpose is to eliminate the annual event of cutting, cutting and cutting. It is unfortunate, and no one takes this more seriously than I do.”

In October, the college released a list of 29 of its 74 programs — about 39 percent of all the programs offered at Cuesta College — to be ranked for possible elimination. It wound up not having to cut all of them because voters approved Proposition 30 in November.

On Wednesday, Alison Merzon, president of the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers, asked the trustees to spare the dance program from being eliminated.

“I happen to believe educating the soul and spirit is just as important (as educating the mind),” Merzon said.

San Luis Obispo City Councilman Andrew Carter, who teaches part-time at the college in a program not impacted by the changes, criticized the process used to identify the programs that would be cut.

“The process has been terrible, rushed,” Carter said.

Board President Pat Mullen said the cuts are necessary to comply with a long-term budget reduction plan recently submitted to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

The budget reduction plan is a way of demonstrating fiscal solvency in future years, something the college had been criticized by the accrediting commission for not doing in the past.

The money saved through the latest program cuts will be put into reserves to help the college better prepare for inflation and volatile state funding.

“The sanctions on the college by the accrediting commission indicate that somehow the college is not living up to its obligations,” Mullen said. “We have to be committed and willing to make tough decisions to meet the new fiscal realities.”