State Agencies Tighten Their Belts at Gov. Rick Perry's Request

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--Odessa College has a plan in place that will satisfy a proposed 5% budget cut.

But as NewsWest 9 found out, complying with the Governor's request, could have serious consequences for the student body.

The proposed cuts haven't gone into effect yet, but when they do, Odessa College is ready to shave off $400,000, this year and next. With record enrollment this semester, that will have serious effects on over 5,600 students.

According to Cheri Dalton, "We've looked at it.  We've evaluated some.  We are prepared to go forward, if we need to go forward."

The Odessa College Board of Directors approved proposed budget cuts at Tuesday night's meeting.  It's a plan, ready to be enforced, as soon as they get the word.

"We don't know yet that the Governor is going to ask for this.  We've been asked to present a plan.  If we were asked to cut 5%, how would we do that?" Dalton explained.

OC's three step plan includes; putting a hiring freeze on staff and personnel, reducing travel and staff training and also deferring facility maintenance.  All three serve their purpose, but will have serious, negative effects on the student population.  That's not a good thing at a time they are enjoying record high enrollment.

"If we don't hire the needed personnel, what that does is, it limits what we can offer to our students.  It increases class size, which is not always in the best interest of the student," Dalton said.

Cutting back travel expenses means staff instructors can't keep up with teaching trends.  OC Freshman, Jose Garcia, isn't happy.

"I feel like that really, to be blunt, sucks.  Not enough teachers?  That means they're going to have to cut back on the number of students they allow into the school.  I could be one of the ones that they don't let back in," Garcia said.

Garcia's main objective now is get his grade point average back in shape and get ahead in school, something he can't do alone, "For some of the help, I go to tutoring.  If they cut back on things like that, I'm not going to be able to get what I need learned and I'm going to fail, utterly and completely."

Until the budget cuts are approved, Garcia has to sit back and wait. Dalton says, Odessa College plans to hold true to their mission too, "We will still continue to provide excellent education. It will just be harder to do that."

Dalton added Odessa College is striving to be the best community college in the country.  They have high aspirations as to what they want to provide and offer their students.