Posted at 3 p.m. Sept. 28, 2016

Budget shortfalls lead to disheartening switch

What’s your next move if suddenly, because of a shortfall in a budget, the higher education you planned on receiving for your career path is given the axe? How do you maneuver around such an obstacle? Would you switch institutions? Choose another major?

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Courtney Walston, Photographer

When my senior year of high school was coming to a close, my plans for college were set, not in stone but very close to being so. I knew I wanted to seek higher education through college and I was fortunate enough to know that I wanted to be a mass media/journalism major before I even applied anywhere. Laramie County Community College fit the bill for my freshman year considering that I wanted to get used to being in college. I wanted to transfer as a sophomore to Northwest Community College in Powell to continue my associate’s degree. Little did I know that my future plans were about to shift dramatically.

In February of 2016, Northwest College announced that it had approximately a $2.3 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, “in response to Wyoming’s revenue situation, the result of depressed energy prices,” stated Mark Kitchen, vice president for college relations at NWC, in an interview with WyomingBusinessReport.com’s Jeff Truchot. When there is a foreseeable loss of money, colleges have to be slimmed down where they can. Departments had to cut down on spending, salaries have to be reevaluated and certain departments are reviewed on criteria that could lead to elimination. These are just some of the many factors that NWC had to take into consideration so the institution could balance its budget.

The criteria that would seal the fate of a handful of programs “included cost versus revenue, number of program majors, job prospects for program graduates, other funding sources available and whether or not the programs were community keystones on campus,” Truchot wrote. The three programs that were discontinued were ranked low on all five criteria points, one of which was the journalism program itself.

NWC is offering the courses for returning students only so that they can finish their degree program; new incoming students don’t have the option to join the program. NWC’s journalism faculty adviser, Rob Breeding, said that the elimination of the program was targeted due to articles that were published by the school’s newspaper, The Northwest Trail, that were critical of the school’s administration.

Truchot wrote that they were publishing “news stories in recent months about an instructor who left his gun in a classroom, an investigation into incidents involving alcohol on campus that led to the dismissal of five resident assistants and spending decisions at the college, including raises and bonuses for some top employees.”

As someone who really desired to be a part of the journalism program offered at NWC, it was very upsetting news that courses for my career path were deemed insignificant and not community keystones on the campus. It definitely resulted in the restructure of my higher education plans as well as disappointment that I couldn’t go to an institution that I had my heart set on. I was not about to change my career plans just to attend a college away from home, but it was still disheartening.


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