Impending Budget Cuts Threaten Horticulture Program

Photo by Angela Scott

Talk of increased tuition is buzzing around campus, but this past week has students and faculty seeing the first concrete examples of LBCC’s reduced budget. Along with several cuts to staff, the most pressing concern to many is the proposed elimination of LBCC’s horticulture program.

“We had to start building our budget before we knew what the legislature was going to do,” said LBCC President Greg Hamann. “We picked $590 (million), and the legislature happened to pick the same number. We were at $570, so that’s not nearly as much of an increase, and that’s not enough to cover our expenses.”

With a stagnant rate of property tax dedicated to school funding, and the redirecting of much of Oregon’s budget to struggling programs like the state health plan and the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), higher education all over the state is feeling increasing economic strain, and LBCC is no exception.

“I think everybody understands the circumstances of the budget, it wasn’t until it actually impacted persons and programs that it started to feel real.”

President Hamann explained that instead of raising tuition by nearly 18% for all of the students, the board is deciding whether to try to reduce overall expenses of the institution by making individual cuts. This way, they would only need to raise tuition by 7%. These cuts would include reducing paid positions on campus, removing vacant positions, and most notably the terminating of the LBCC horticulture program.

Students and faculty currently involved in the horticulture program have expressed frustration at this proposed cut. Lawn signs posted in front of Takena Hall invite the community to speak up about the issue at a board meeting being held March 20 in Calapooia Center 103.

“We’re eliminating a vice president position, five classified positions, we’re doing a lot of things that impact a lot of people’s lives,” Hamann admitted.

“It would be nice not to have to do things like that. This is hard for the whole institution.”

This isn’t the first time a program has been cut for the sake of budgetary restrictions. Several office management programs were cut in previous years, mostly because there was a significantly smaller job market for those in that field.

If the program ends up being cut, horticulture students will be “taught out” their last year before the program is terminated.

“There is incredible uncertainty,” said Stefan Seiter, horticulture program chair. Seiter teaches horticulture, agriculture, and soil sciences courses at LB. “Full time students will be taught out, but those students who go to school part time won’t be able to finish, and will be left hanging.”

This year there are 32 horticulture students who will be transferring and 19 students who will not. Those students who will not be transferring will have one year to complete their CTE before the horticulture program is terminated.

“LBCC is the only college in the southern half of Oregon, west of the Cascades, that provides this broad of a program,” said Seiter, “I get people from Klamath Falls, Roseburg, Medford, and Eugene who move here to attend these classes.”

There are only two other crops production programs offered by Oregon community colleges, so if LBCC’s horticulture program disappears, students from all over Oregon would have to drive to Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario or to Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.

Erin Day-Gennett is enrolled in the horticulture program who will soon be travelling to Washakie County, Wyoming to assist with a program that addresses and works to solve poverty-related food security issues within the community. Since she will be away for a year, she will not be able to complete her horticulture studies at LBCC if the program is cut.

“I am planning on returning to the Albany area after my service ends,” Day-Gennett said via email, “I really don’t know what will be waiting for me when I get back. If they’re phasing out the horticulture and crop production programs over the next year I won’t be able to get an Associate of Applied Science in horticulture at LBCC. The only other places to receive two year horticulture degrees that I could find were Clackamas and Chemeketa where I have no idea if any of the classes I have already taken will transfer.”

Having moved from The Dalles to this area, Day-Gennett is one of many horticulture students who moved near LBCC because of how successful the program is.

“If they go through with the program suspension,” she said, “This will be a loss for the whole community in the region.”

Story by Caleb Barber

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