Trustee Louise Jaffe speaks about student equity during the september 3rd Board of Trustees meeting at Santa Monica College

SMC Corsair / Daily Press Staff Writer

In the boardroom of the Santa Monica College (SMC) Business building, the 2019-2020 school year officially kicked off with another Board of Trustees meeting on the evening of September 4.
Among many topics discussed, VIP Welcome Day was addressed early in the meeting during the Superintendent’s report. Brenda Benson, an employee at the college, talked about the success of VIP Welcome Day, reporting that among those who attended, 95 percent would recommend the experience to a friend.
Following was Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Tuitasi with back to school activities. Tuitasi praised the success of the new student services building. However, he brought up concerns that the new parking structures are increasing traffic from the Pearl Street side of SMC’s main campus to Pico.
“It still wasn’t as bad as we expected,” said Tuitasi, “but due to the parking that’s opened on Pico, we do see a transition.”
Enrollment is dropping for domestic non-residents and international students.
“We’re nearly 13 percent behind last year” said Teresita Rodriguez, SMC’s Vice President of Enrollment Development. “The largest decline we’re seeing is in domestic non-residents,” Rodriguez said.
Chair Margaret Quiñones-Perez said the decline could be attributed in part to the interim leadership in day-to-day operations.
Trustee Louise Jaffe said national policies could also be a factor.
“I thought the report on international education was very interesting and fairly terrifying, because we have enormous exposure to loss of Chinese students given the delightful negotiation process that our countries seem to be partaking in,” she said.
The Student Equity Plan was also on the agenda. The plan aims to address concerns SMC is not serving its Latinx and African American students as well as their white counterparts.
The Board has already seen a first draft of the plan and gave feedback at a prior meeting.
“I was kind of taken aback to see no changes at all in any of the language” Jaffe said. “From my perspective, it would’ve been a pretty easy job for you to have modified a few sentences and in some way acknowledged at least our input here.”
Jaffe continued to express her doubts on the plan’s ability to change “hearts and minds” and called for a continuation of actual changes.
Chair Quiñones-Perez praised the work done so far.
“If you have minor tweaks that doesn’t change any methodology on here, putting in a couple words in some place, then you can bring that to the board” said Quiñones “but I also want you to bear in mind to be fair to people’s work.”
The 2019-2020 Proposed Adopted Budget was also part of the meeting.
A “Hold Harmless” agreement with the State has been extended for another year guaranteeing funding at a minimum level. The budget assumes a 7 percent decline in non-resident full time equivalency (enrollment) students, (Nr FTES). Since the school has not increased fees in anticipation of the decline, SMC faces a projected loss of $2.3 million.
This projected drop would contribute to a 16 percent drop over the past five years.
The budget proposes $2 million to address the college’s $1.3 million dollar Student Bad Debt. A student accumulates bad debt when they sign up for a class, postpone payment, and do not return the following semester, which is the stipulation in postponing payment.
The postponement system is designed to address financial barriers some students have and the system has financial benefits to the school as it draws in more students thus increasing full time equivalency (FTES).
“Normally we budget $700,000 for bad debt in that area,” said Vice President of Business and Administration, Christopher Bonvenuto. “Two years ago, that number spiked to about $1.7 million.”
Anticipating this increase as a one-time event, there was no increase to the original budget of $700,000 budget in 2018-19. Now in the 2019-2020 budget, Bonvenuto is proposing to increase the Bad Student Debt budget to 2 million.
The SMC Board of Trustees voted to implement the 2019-2020 budget unanimously.