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Lower Columbia College

Lower Columbia College has finalized its budget for the 2018-19 school year. The $24.27 million budget gives small bumps to the library and student services, among other things.

The Lower Columbia College Board of Trustees on Wednesday night passed a $24.27 million budget for the 2018-19 school year, a $1.13 million increase from last year’s budget.

According to LCC documents, each major program category — from instruction to libraries to student services — received a small bump in funding. More than half the budget is slated for salaries and benefits for LCC staff, which included slight cost of living increases.

The school expects to earn an extra 1.5 percent in tuition and student-paid fees (for services such as using the gym or taking excess credits), despite projections that enrollment will stay relatively flat, according to LCC spokeswoman Wendy Hall.

The Legislature has increased tuition costs by 2.2 percent statewide.

LCC President Chris Bailey, in a Thursday morning phone interview with The Daily News, said the lack of enrollment increase coincides with lower-than-average unemployment rates in Cowlitz County.

However, he said the college has been able to maintain its revenue stream due to increased enrollment of Running Start and international students, as well as higher retention rates.

“The more students that don’t drop out, the less new recruits you have to rely on to balance your budget on,” he said.

The state has appropriated $14.65 million to the school, a 2.7 percent increase from last year. Most of that extra money comes from $100,000 in funding to the Guided Pathways program, which aims to simplify the process in how students choose career paths.

Bailey said despite flat enrollment, he thinks LCC has “done the best we could given the circumstances” when it comes to its budget.

“I think we’ve done a good job of prioritizing and (designating) our money in an efficient manner,” he said. “We’ll be able to succeed with this current budget.”

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