Midland College Preliminary Budget "Sunsets" Programs

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - After all the talks of cuts, and after all the rallies, Midland College officials believe they have their budget.

On Tuesday, they approved a preliminary operating budget of $45,418,236 for this next year on Tuesday. The bad news is more than $3 million in state funding won't be around in 2011 and 2012.

That drop in funding has jeopardized the future's of MC's Veterinary Technology and Professional Pilot programs.

"We knew there were going to be casualties going into this and unfortunately there were a couple," Midland College President, Dr. Steve Thomas, said. "We started looking at those kinds of numbers that we would lose from the state. We realized we had some real work to do to try to balance our budget locally."

The Board of Trustees approved an increase in tuition and have eliminated multiple positions to try to save money but it wasn't enough.

The preliminary budget has both the Vet Tech and Pilot programs "sunseted."

"What sunset means is that we will go ahead and complete this next year with students currently enrolled so that they can complete their degree, but we won't enroll new students," Thomas said. "The net effect of that is we will close the program within the next 12 months to 18 months."

For the students who have fought for their programs for months, this news is disheartening.

"It's kind of disappointing," MC Vet Tech student, Katrina Walker, said. "We've put so much effort into it. I mean, some of us have put aside family to try and save this program that we think is worth saving."

School officials said the Vet Tech program wasn't producing enough graduates to meet educational standards, reportedly graduating less than five in the last three years.

Officials also said you don't need a mandatory license to be a vet tech in Texas, giving more strikes against the program.

Under enrollment and high expenses were blamed for sunsetting the Pilot program.

"Capital outlay, equipment, gasoline, all of those costs were so expensive," Thomas said.

But Vet Tech students are worried they won't have time in this last sunset year to finish their degrees.

"Some people may be dropping classes if they're not going to be able to continue the program," Walker said. "Possibly, the students who have been taking one or two classes at a time will have to cram everything into two semesters."

NewsWest 9 was also told that some are considering dropping out.

"Nobody that's going to drop out because they want to, but because they'll have to," Walker said. "Because their schedule will not meet the requirements of continuing the program."

Thomas said it isn't their choice to cut programs but that it has become a necessity with the lack of funding.

Other Vet Tech students e-mailed NewsWest 9 on Tuesday night saying they are at a loss, faced with either dropping out or moving hours away to another program.

That preliminary operating budget still requires final approval in August, but Thomas told NewsWest 9 he doesn't expect any changes to be made.