Today, we will award a record 226 RCC students the degrees they earned through their talent, determination, and efforts. While our graduates are deservedly in the spotlight today, this is also a great day for their families and for our faculty and staff. This is the culmination of our employees’ hard work and commitment, and a dream come true for hundreds of Richmond and Scotland County families.
While being proud of our graduates, I am concerned about the effect that the upcoming state budget may have on the college and our students. When the State House of Representatives passed a budget that raised tuition by $320 per year and cut our funding by 10 percent, I felt we could weather the storm. However, the Senate’s spending plan for education would increase our cuts and eliminate much of the funding we earned through this year’s record enrollment growth.
I appreciate the financial and administrative flexibility our college would be provided in legislation recently proposed. I also recognize the difficult financial straits our legislature is navigating, and the challenging decisions that must be made. However, if the Senate spending plan becomes reality, hard decisions will have to be made at RCC as well. We will NOT be able to fill all of the critical faculty and student support positions that are needed in 2011-12. These positions are necessary to support the new programs and partnerships our faculty and staff developed this past year, programs such Healthcare Information Technology, Substation Utility Technology, and our pre-Poultry Science partnership with NC State. Each of these programs was developed because local and regional employers voiced a need for qualified, trained employees in high-skilled jobs.
In order to meet the needs of employers and students, RCC and the NC Community College System need the funding we have earned. While we have worked through budget cuts and reversions in recent years, we can no longer meet ever-increasing demands with ever-decreasing funds. We have arrived at the point where deeper cuts will reduce our service to our students.
As our local leaders have repeatedly reminded us, the economic future of Richmond and Scotland Counties depends on the quality of our workforce. At a time when we need to rebuild and retool our local economy, we need to invest, not divest, in our colleges and public schools. For RCC to be successful, the students in our local school system must be prepared and college-ready. Attracting and retaining business and industry is dependent upon our citizens having the skills needed for 21st century jobs. Our Board Chairman Hugh Lee always reminds us that RCC is the “people’s college”. Our legislature needs to be reminded of this ideal and invest in the lives and dreams of our future graduates. We have never closed our doors to a student or denied access in our 47-year history, and we cannot allow that legacy to end this fall.
McInnis serves as president of Richmond Community College.