Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, left, announces Colorado Northwestern Community College will receive $23.5 million in state funds for the construction of a new academic building during a press conference in May at the Holiday Inn of Craig. John Boyd, CNCC president, middle, and Gene Bilodeau, Craig campus dean, applaud the measure. The state projects to see as much as $1 billion in budget shortfalls in 2008 and 2009. Boyd said the college hasn't received any notice of mid-year funding cuts.

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Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, left, announces Colorado Northwestern Community College will receive $23.5 million in state funds for the construction of a new academic building during a press conference in May at the Holiday Inn of Craig. John Boyd, CNCC president, middle, and Gene Bilodeau, Craig campus dean, applaud the measure. The state projects to see as much as $1 billion in budget shortfalls in 2008 and 2009. Boyd said the college hasn't received any notice of mid-year funding cuts.

CNCC prepares for possible budget cuts

State funding for colleges, universities could decrease

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— Mary Morris is seeing times change at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Craig campus.

Morris, the campus' community education director, remembers the late 1990s and early 2000s when CNCC's financial standing looked grim.

State funding was slashed.

Administrative positions were eliminated.

Front-line staff members who worked with students were let go.

"We were spread so thin that it was difficult to provide the services that we knew we could," Morris said.

By planning a restructuring process scheduled to take effect next month, college administrators are attempting to recover some of what they lost during those tough financial times.

"We've reorganized as a matter of trying to get to where we think our optimal organization should be," CNCC president John Boyd said.

That's not to say more hard financial times aren't possible. Projected shortfalls in the state budget could impact CNCC and other colleges and universities.

Restructure is 'neutral'

In January, CNCC Craig campus dean Gene Bilodeau will become the college's vice president of administration. His duties will change from overseeing all Craig campus operations to supervising college-wide financials and facilities.

Bilodeau will remain at the Craig campus, however, and will retain the same salary of approximately $72,000 a year.

Dan Minor, former Lamar Community College executive dean of academic programs, is scheduled to become the college's new dean of instruction Jan. 5. College administrators revived the position after it had been eliminated because of state budget cuts.

The reorganization was "cost neutral," Boyd said, adding that no college employees were laid off during the process.

Instead, CNCC administrators combined positions and made other changes in its administrative structure.

For example, duties of the college's controller, who acts as an accountant, were absorbed into the college's business officer position.

New campus construction and other activities at the campus played a part in going ahead with administrative restructuring.

"There's just been too much going on for one person to do," Bilodeau said.

Bracing for unknown

But, hard times for higher education may not be over yet.

The state's Legislative Council has projected budget shortfalls totaling up to $1 billion for 2008 and 2009.

And, in Boyd's experience, college and university funding is usually near the top of the list when the state decides to chop expenses.

Funding for higher education and roads tend to receive less funding during budget shortfalls.

"Education and highways are typically hit harder in bad budgets," he said.

Boyd was optimistic Wednesday about funding factors under the college's control.

Most of the funds necessary for building a new academic building at the Craig campus already have been allocated to the college. A bill Gov. Bill Ritter signed in May funneled mineral lease revenue to higher education construction projects, including the CNCC's Craig campus' academic building.

Boyd projects enrollment increases this year, which means more money for the college.

CNCC officials have made plans this year to reduce spending if they need to, and the college has a strong reserve fund, Boyd said, although a lion's share of that money has been earmarked for new facilities at the Craig campus.

As for changes in the state's fudning to CNCC, only time will tell.

To date, CNCC hasn't heard about any mid-year budget cuts. But, that doesn't mean they won't happen.

"We may take a reduction in some funding," Boyd said. "I don't know.

"We'll have to see."

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