Can the Redwood Boat Stay Afloat?

College of the Redwoods posted a loss of $33 million during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. With just under $5 million in from tuition, CR’s ability to stay afloat is beyond monetary sense. Furthermore, the continued expansion of the College’s campuses (now with six) reveal the board of trustees approach to business may be influenced by the strategies of the Chinese Emperor Zheng He. The numbers simply don’t add up. With over $30 million in salaries and employee benefits alone, it is surprising a business model such as this would ever foresee success.

It’s not over yet though as this approach has been going on for a while. CR is $33 million dollars in debt with listed assets of $45 million dollars. That is not a positive number or outlook for College of the Redwoods.

As we delve further into the financial forays of CR and look at the District’s official total employees of 543 and divide that into the $23,098,526 spent on salaries and we’re given $45,026 as the average salary of every employee at CR. Also, we must divide the $6,691,047 in employee benefits which yields $13,042 as the average employee benefit. Depending on your conception of wealth you may or may not think this is a fair amount of money. Comparably though, these teachers cannot be getting payed that well. 

A job description website claims “the 2004–05 school year the average salary for all college teachers was $51,800 per year. However, salaries varied widely by rank: instructors, for instance, averaged $39,899 per year, while assistant professors made $54,571 per year and full professors earned $91,548 per year.”

So it appears we have under payed the most important facet of the educational system. If the cost to pay the educators is not to blame then what is the issue that plagues CR’s treasure ship?

In 2007 the American Association of Community Colleges published a study titled “Funding Issues in U.S. Community Colleges: Findings From a 2007 Survey of the National State Directors of Community Colleges.” This study reveals much about the real issues facing not only College of the Redwoods but our entire national education system. The biggest worry in 2007 was lack of funding and the coming recession. Well, now post-sub-prime mortgage crisis, we can easily see this has remained a issue. One of the biggest current problems is lack of funding due to this recessive economy. This problem is further exacerbated by the strong competition for tax dollars between different educational levels and the harsh realization that most schools did not receive their entire allotted funds in 2007.

The report goes on to explain that increased tuition across the board has caused a massive influx of enrollment in the less expensive community college system. Already without funding, the school systems cannot handle the increased student load in a financially beneficial way. Even more defeating is the fact that we are in California, what is called a “mega state,” with fast growing high school graduation rates and state universities capping student population, community college is the only choice. Being a rural school we pop right in on number 11 of the problems facing community colleges regarding not only funding but lack of transportation, advertisement and organized local support. 

I’ll leave you with a quote for thought from the conclusion of the study:

“It may well be that linkages between state appropriations, state tuition policies, and state student aid funding policies are being overwhelmed by the dire need for revenue to avoid shortfalls in state budgets. As the high tuition and high aid model shows cracks, if not giant crevasses, the situation will require continued monitoring.”


Noah Cannon

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