Fayetteville Technical Community College President Dr. Larry Keen hosted Cumberland County Commissioners at lunch to make an informal budget request. Only three members of the seven-member board accepted the invitation. Commissioners Jeanette Council, Larry Lancaster and Jimmy Keefe showed up. Dr. Keen gave the board an update on student enrollment and asked the county to consider increasing the school’s budget by $544,000 in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The local budget allocated to FTCC by County government is $11.6 million. The college’s total budget this year is $136 million, said Chief Financial Officer Betty Smith. “We have pinched until it hurts,” declared Commissioner Council while at the same time praising FTCC for its commitment to higher education. Council points to the County’s $16 million budget shortfall, drawing attention to a significant decline in property values as recently disclosed in the tax administration’s revaluation report.
Keen’s annual report revealed a small reduction in student enrollment. “Community colleges nationwide are losing students because the economy is getting better,” he said.
Seven hundred ten thousand full-time students are enrolled in North Carolina’s 58 community colleges; 11,800 of them at FTCC. Keen told commissioners the college also serves 27,000 adults in continuing education classes. And there are 1,510 active-duty military men and women, and 2,300 veterans enrolled. The college was ranked second in the nation among technical colleges by the Military Times. A year ago, FTCC announced the hiring of three head coaches for the inaugural men’s and women’s intercollegiate basketball and golf teams.
Commissioners seemed surprised to learn that Cape Fear Valley Health System has told FTCC it needs 400 new nurses each year.
“210 nursing students are enrolled next fall,” Keen said. He added that he believes FTCC can turn out the 400 nurses needed within five years. In other areas, Dr. Keen told county commissioners and administrators he would like to provide FTCC employees a 3 percent cost of living pay raise in the coming fiscal year.
As for students, Keen said based on course enrollments, course credit hours and course level, individual full-time equivalent student enrollment support is $982, well below the state average. He said it would take an 8 percent funding increase to bring FTCC per student spending up to the state average. He’s asking for a 5.1 percent increase, which would make FTCC 27th in student financial support of the 58 colleges in the system.
FTCC provides affordable vocational-technical, business and industry, general education, college transfer and continuing education programs on four campuses across Cumberland County. FTCC meets the needs and desires of its diverse student body as well as the economic development needs of the community. The Fayetteville/Cumberland County Economic Development Center is headquartered at the main campus.