Straying from the usual despairing discussion of water, the subject of Wednesday’s October 2 meeting among the Board of County Supervisors brought to light an entirely different kind of drought–the State budget.
Piedmont Virginia Community College prides itself on making higher education accessible to everyone, but while its enrollment keeps rising (June 30 marked the highest in history–7,000), its funding keeps decreasing. And with the dark cloud of budgetary cuts forecasting a 7 percent, 11 percent or 15 percent decrease in spending for 2002-2004, PVCC finds little humor in the irony that, instead of adding new programs to feed new demand, it will be discussing instead what can and cannot be eliminated.
Anticipating that State boards will also announce another tuition increase, PVCC may find it hard to fulfill its promise of "higher education accessibility." "These budget cuts could be a serious blow," says Supervisor Dennis Rooker, "especially considering all that PVCC provides to area residents."
Of the 7,000 students currently enrolled in courses for credit, one-quarter are Albemarle County residents, hence the discussion among County Supervisors. PVCC already struggles to fit its enrolled students into night course programs; 500 students now attend PVCC classes at Albemarle High School and 90 are driving themselves to Monticello High. The worry over night class enrollment isn’t the only thing causing President Frank Friedman to lose sleep; PVCC has more than 400 high school students earning college credit with PVCC’s dual enrollment program. It also boasts 600 students enrolled in classes provided over the Internet and 125 enrolled via video conferencing classes.
"We are using technology to make it happen," says Friedman, "giving students valuable information they might not get otherwise."
Two of PVCC’s major funding requests will support a new fire-suppression system in the 30-year-old main building and a new science and technology building, which will include science labs, more classrooms and new programs–especially in the growing healthcare arena. The college wants $5 million for that project. It also hopes to raise a scholarship fund and ramp up guidance services.
"We have far too many students just wandering through our program," says Friedman, "and we need some solid advisors to direct these students."
Even with the State budgetary shortfall clocking in at $2 billion, PVCC figures that if its neighbors at UVA can put $128 million into building a new basketball arena, certainly the community college could round up a measly $5 million.
Within the next 24 months, Friedman and his board will be gearing up to launch a massive fundraising campaign. Knowing PVCC doesn’t have nearly the alumni support and spirit UVA might, Friedman retains his positive outlook. "In the future, we would love to go as far as bringing the Monticello Visitors Center back into PVCC," he says.
But for now, Friedman’s primary goals focus on the future of his students, and his community.
"We cannot turn any of these students away," says Friedman, "be it night courses, dual enrollment, video conferencing classes. Our entire purpose is to bring people of all ages from all areas into higher education, not turn them away."