Budget cuts and lay-offs at Yavapai College

By Daniel Roca
Staff Writer

The bleachers at Yavapai College’s Walraven Gym are packed full of fans for tonight’s basketball game. It is both a celebration and a memorial, as there is a chance that tonight, Feb. 25, 2011 might be the last night of the 30-year Roughrider basketball program.

Budget cuts, due to lack of state funding, have caused Yavapai College to make drastic changes to programs across the board. In addition to laying off a number of full-time faculty and staff, other reductions include cutting 50 percent of the Nursing Program, eliminating 75 percent of college scholarships, closing the Camp Verde and Walnut Creek research facilities and finally, cutting men’s and women’s basketball completely.

Katie Hoeschler, Media Contact Representative for Yavapai College, explained that state funding has dropped to only one percent of the school’s budget. The college has lobbied to legislature against the cuts, but recognize there is little chance of reversing the decision.

“It is something beyond our control,” Hoeschler remarked. “These are the cuts we have been given and we are trying hard to manage them. We have been very diligent in maintaining transparency.”

However, some have expressed concerns about the strategic plan for the college. For example, all student health services have been eliminated, while salaries for the remaining full-time faculty and staff have increased.

A former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I’ll never be able to figure it out. I see that all the remaining employees received a 3.6 percent increase in pay–that certainly feels like salt in the wound.”

Yavapai College maintains that the pay increases reflect the additional hours added to each work week in an effort to maximize efficiency. Yet, a public, online document states that employees will increase their workweeks in the spring and fall by three hours and decrease their original workweeks in the summer by three hours. According to this information, the hours total the same amount as previous years meaning the employees are, in fact, receiving an hourly raise.

The former employee emphasized her disappointment with the decisions. “I understand that Yavapai College had to take steps to address the $3.4 million decrease in state funding; they had to make difficult decisions. I understand all that and hold no grudges about it. What is difficult to accept is the 3.6 percent increase in pay for remaining employees, the money for which was made possible by other employees losing their jobs.”

The budget cuts also stirred emotions for students at the basketball game on Feb. 25. “A lot of our friends are losing their scholarships,” one student said. “I think some better choices could have been made. But what are you going to do?” Another student replied, “The administration and the government are going to do what they are going to do.”

A prospective nursing student, Audrey Hunter, voiced her fears. “It’s incredibly discouraging to know that the competition for the program just increased by 200 percent. This happened in a time frame that doesn’t allow for a back-up plan, because it’s too late to apply to other programs.”

Cathy and Steve Rafters, parents of Cody Rafters, who played for the Roughriders basketball team for two years while on scholarship, expressed, “I don’t understand. [In] nursing, for example, there is a waiting list of students. That’s a growing field. How are they cutting that program in half?”

Theirs are just two of the faces at the game to show some support for the Yavapai College community. “I think what is missing here is that there isn’t a cohesive community. And what is sad is, once you cut a program like this, you’ll never see it come back.”

The whistle blows. Tip-off. And the final game begins. Across the court a fan holds up a sign that reads, “Play like it’s your last game!”

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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