Santa Monica College (SMC) is making progress on a master plan for education, accreditation recommendations, construction projects and a budget for the upcoming academic year, college officials said in a “State of the College” address presented to the SMC board of trustees Monday, March 14th.

The college’s Master Plan for Education 2004 is a formal list of education objectives for the 2004-2005 academic year, which began last fall.

College officials based those objectives on recommendations from an accrediting commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Accreditation allows the college to market itself as a trustworthy and viable education institution.

The accrediting commission reviewed the college’s education and business operations during site visits over several months last year.

“The major institutional objectives for 2004-2005 are actually based directly on the recommendations of the accrediting team,” said Randy Lawson, SMC executive vice president.

“It was particularly crucial this year to focus on these objectives because we have a requirement from the accrediting team to present a progress report on four recommendations,” Lawson said.

The progress report is due Friday, March 25th.

A subcommittee of the accrediting commission will re-visit the college in mid-April.

The accrediting commission recommended that the college:

– initiate an institution-wide dialogue about student learning outcomes and processes to facilitate learning;

– focus on developing and implementing the enrollment recovery plan while concurrently developing specific contingency plans to address alternative enrollment and economic scenarios;

– develop and regularly evaluate the roles of individuals and constituent groups in college governance to ensure their effective participation in decision-making processes; and

– develop strategies to improve communication and professional relationships to create a campus climate of mutual respect.

“We have addressed all of the recommendations seriously,” Lawson said.

Based on those recommendations, college vice presidents consulted with faculty and staff to revise the education master plan.

The master plan for 2004-2005 includes six goals with 26 objectives to improve college operations.

Goals set by the college include developing:

– student success by using data on student outcomes to enhance programs and services;

– academic excellence centered on a “strong core” of classified staff, faculty and administrators;

– communities of mutual respect by allowing free exchange of ideas and broad collaboration;

– effective uses for technology and the Web site;

– community partnerships to ensure financial viability and promote employment for students and alumni; and

– physical environments that allow for student achievement and effective use of natural resources.

FACILITIES REPORT — Santa Monica College is currently in construction on more than 20 projects at various campuses.

Funding primarily comes from bond Measures U and S, approved by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2002 and 2004.

“When everything is finished, there will be a whole new look from the center of the campus,” said Greg Brown, SMC director of facilities and planning.

“To the west will be the new Liberal Arts Building,” Brown said. “To the east will be the new Theater Arts Building.

“To the south will be the new Library Village.

“To the north, we have changes in mind for Drescher Hall.”

Other major projects include developing the Santa Monica Airport Campus, formerly called the Bundy Campus; building a high technology performing arts center at the Madison Campus in Santa Monica; and acquiring a site for a new building in Malibu.

David Muller, SMC associate vice president for facilities, said college buildings are used 16 hours a day and six days a week for most of the year.

“Our staff has been doing an excellent job,” said Tom Donner, SMC interim president and superintendent.

“Even with all this construction going on, the campus grounds look really good,” he said.

Donner said the college could hire more classified staff to handle the construction projects and maintain facilities once they are built.

“We are all looking forward to the time when construction on this campus is complete,” Donner said.

“There are some people here who have never seen the campus without construction,” he said.

BUDGET REPORT — Santa Monica College is currently working on the budget for the 2005-2006 academic year.

College officials said budget decisions might change, based on statewide community college funding decisions by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

State officials have not made decisions on equalization and what to do with the State Teacher’s Retirement System (STRS) public pension fund.

Equalization is the state’s way of being fair in community college funding by basing funding on the number of students attending a community college rather than other complex calculation methods.

Without equalization, some community colleges smaller than SMC get more state funding.

The Chancellor’s Office told SMC officials that $80 million in equalization funding has been promised to community colleges statewide this year.

The college’s share of that funding may be in the $3 million range.

Lawson said the college received $3.6 million in equalization funding for the 2004-2005 academic year.

Donner said state officials are discussing shifting the responsibility of paying State Teacher’s Retirement System benefits onto community colleges.

State officials are also discussing tuition increases.

“The Legislative Analyst’s Office is recommending an increase in tuition to $33 a unit,” said trustee Herb Roney.

“This would be detrimental to our students and the budget as well,” Roney said. “We will lose a number of students.”

Lawson said a tuition increase was not included in this year’s governor’s budget. An increase may or may not happen in the future.

“As we go into the next year, we are building a template for the 2005-2006 budget,” said Reagan Romali, SMC associate vice president of fiscal services.

“There are some things we need to keep our eye on in terms of demands for funds, places where money may be needed,” Romali said.

She said budget priorities include restoring the college’s financial reserves up to the state-mandated three percent of the college’s budget and hiring more full-time faculty and classified staff.

Santa Monica College is on a state watch list because the college’s reserves for fiscal emergencies are too low.

The college also needs to brace for a possible State Teacher’s Retirement System shift, rising costs of health care and rising costs of construction, she said.

Romali also said the college is spending $4 million over its budget for the current year and this deficit would need to be addressed in the 2005-2006 budget.

“We may have some really difficult decisions to make if we are overspending and equalization may or may not come through,” said Nancy Greenstein, vice chair of the board of trustees.

“I think it is prudent to prepare for the worst as we work on this budget,” said trustee Susan Aminoff.