Equal versus fair

Activity scholarship cuts limit opportunities

Sometimes equal isn't fair. And sometimes fair isn't right.

The recent announcement that institutional dollars are being cut from activity scholarships at Laramie County Community College may be mathematically logical, but, in other cases, it seems the administration is cutting the heart and soul out of the college. By significantly reducing activity scholarships, LCCC is taking away opportunities from LCCC students who are involved in extra activities, clubs and especially the arts and humanities.

According to Dr. Grant Wilson, interim vice president of student services at LCCC, the scholarships are being re-examined and redistributed in the fairest way possible.

The reason for this is Vice President of Administration and Finance Carol Hoglund requested the college track exactly where money is going, Wilson said. He said other colleges nationally are doing the same.

According to Wilson, LCCC is currently distributing 35 percent of its institutional dollars to students. The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) suggested the percentage should be more in the range of 20 to 25 percent, Wilson said.

Wilson said considering the recession, it is fair to request better tracking of the college's money. It is also a way to inform taxpayers of where their money is going, he said.

According to Wilson, $2.3 million in institutional money is being given to students this academic year.

In the 2012–2013 academic year, that will decrease to $2 million, and by 2013–2014 only $1.7 million in scholarships will be given to students.

Activity scholorships take major hit

According to an email sent to deans and forwarded to faculty, the Arts and Humanities Division activity scholarships alone are being cut in total by $33,325 for next year. This involves choral and instrumental music, theater, speech, art and mass media/multimedia and affects hundreds of students.

Of the five programs in the Arts and Humanities Division, music activity scholarships were cut the most from $94,000 this year to $70,500. Theatre scholarships have been cut by $5,750, speech by $2,125, art by $500, and mass media/multimedia has been cut by $1,500.

Wilson said changes won't be policy until he can completely understand the college's objectives concerning scholarships. However, the email already distributed states what will happen. These decisions seem to have been made already and regardless of what objectives may be considered in the near future, the cuts will already begin to affect students in the next academic year.

Activity scholorship cuts

In particular, Wingspan is concerned about the activity scholarships being cut so drastically, scholarship categories already underfunded. The very reason for these scholarships is to aid involved LCCC students. The students who participate in these programs are not average ones who merely show up to class and drift through the hallways. Students who receive activity scholarships do not end their school day at the conclusion of their classes. Moreover, some of these students cannot work off campus because their "activity" is too time-consuming.

These students are involved in special activities that provide them with experiences and skills to use throughout their lives and make their résumés stand apart to employers. Many of these activities bring recognition to the college and/or improve town and gown relations by involving the community.

The extra activities in which students engage are what make this college great. How ironic it is that at the same time the LCCC Board of Trustees approved a master plan that gave high priority to building a new fine and performing arts center, the administration cuts scholarships to music, art and theatre.

At a time when these scholarships should be increased rather than be decreased, we are diminishing the capabilities of these programs to recruit and to retain talented and committed students.

Scholorship cuts limit effectiveness of some programs

LCCC's instrumental music instructor, Gary Hall, said that in the last years he has been at LCCC the music program has received outstanding support.

Hall said he has watched the program grow as students start at LCCC and go on to do great things. "These are high-quality programs at LCCC," Hall said.

These activity scholarships make it possible for these students to participate in the programs. "If you don't have any money, you can't go anywhere," he said.

He said these cuts will affect his program because it is difficult to have a full ensemble without students. The decrease of attendance in music classes will create a less successful ensemble that will become unattractive to students. The drop in attendance will also affect the students' morale, Hall said.

By cutting scholarships by such a large amount, Hall said the programs become unaffordable.

"We need experienced and skilled students," he said. "We need to be funding students for wherever they want to go."

Regardless of what cuts are made, Hall said they will continue to build their program, but this will be a very big road block. They can still help students but not as many as before, and Hall said he felt almost sadness for students with so much potential to be successful being held back because of funding.

Hall said fairness should be evaluated when looking at the impact of the decisions, not necessarily at the equality of them. "There seem to be a lot of unintended consequences," he said.

How does limiting opportunity increase higher education?

What exactly is the college gaining by cutting these scholarships?

Granted 25 percent cuts are being made elsewhere to be fair and equal. It may seem fair to cut monies equally among different departments, but when it comes to providing our more involved students with less money, how can we expect more students to participate in the activities? These students should be rewarded for their efforts, and by significantly reducing the amount of money, the college contradicts what LCCC stands for.

True administrative leadership requires making difficult decisions by examining the merits of various activities and ensuring the activities fulfill the college's long-range goals. How sad it would be to build a beautiful new fine and performing arts center and not have the musicians, actors and artists to bring it to life.

In conclusion, Wingspan asks why is LCCC decreasing its standards to conform to NACUBO? Moreover, where are the "savings" going? Cutting these activities monies equally may be what is easiest, but it doesn't seem to be the most effective way to align the college's finances.

Sometimes equal isn't fair. And sometimes fair isn't right.

Fair would reflect the activities' contributions to the college and the community.