The current status of colleges and universities around the state is one of fiscal uncertainty, according to YVCC Grandview Campus Dean Bryce Humphreys.
"The legislature hasn't settled the state budget yet," said Humphreys. "So we don't have knowledge of what will happen."
Humphreys was speaking to the Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club this past Monday about the difficulties incoming students are facing this year at YVCC and other colleges and universities around the state.
Community colleges are funded by state allocation and student tuition, according to Humphreys, and the state portion has declined by 34 percent. The difference must be made up either by raising tuition or cutting programs, and the colleges cannot raise tuition.
"The state board controls tuition costs," said Humphreys. "That leaves us with fewer options."
He noted that this year's budget battle has been different than in previous years.
"In the past, the governor comes out with a budget, the House comes out with a budget and the Senate comes out with a budget and we know we'll end up with something in the middle of all three," said Humphreys. "This year we've seen multiple budgets and they are very far apart."
As a result, Humphreys had some advice for all potential students.
"Have a back-up plan in case you can't get into the school or even the class you want," he said. "We've had to cut programs, so be ready to find a different path."
He explained that, due to cuts in the budget, YVCC is offering fewer classes than just four or five years ago. In addition, with the economy in bad shape, many people are returning to school to gain new skills.
"What we have is fewer courses offered and more students trying to get into them," Humphreys said. "Plan for your college career to last longer than you expect and be ready to try something else if your first choice doesn't work out."
He also advised students to analyze the cost versus the benefits of going to school. He mentioned diploma mills that charge huge amounts of money for degrees that do not have a high earning potential.
"The result is tens of thousands of dollars in debts that a person can't pay off," he said.
Humphreys says the universities are worried about becoming too expensive and driving their students to community colleges. The community colleges are worried that students will give up on higher education.
All the state schools are waiting now for some result from the legislature. Once the state budget is set, college budgets can be determined. Until then, financial uncertainty reigns.