Despite cuts, enrollment up at Peninsula College

Sequim Gazette

As students return to the campus of Peninsula College this week they’ll find fewer courses and more crowded classes among the changes made to address a $2 million budget cut.


With nearly 20 percent of the college’s operating budget gone due to cuts by the state Legislature, more had to be done with less this year.


Deborah Frazier, vice president for administrative services, said 17 positions were eliminated, 11 through attrition and six through layoffs.


“We knew we’d have budget cuts so as people left on their own accord we typically didn’t replace those positions knowing we’d have to cut,” President Tom Keegan said.


In a move to reduce enrollment capacity by 3 percent, the massage therapy program was suspended and the fisheries program eliminated entirely. The college also reduced the continuing education classes offered.


Keegan said community education now is focused on business training, not adult education.


Gerilee Gustason, who taught sign language classes through PC for close to nine years, said after her class was cut last school year she started teaching on her own out of a friend’s office.


Gustason said she had about 15-20 students in her not-for-credit sign language classes and 10-15 in her

for-credit classes. As fees climbed, enrollment went down, she said.


The bright side is that because the class space is free, she can teach the class for less than before, she said.


But she notices hers aren’t the only courses cut from the catalogue. “There are far fewer classes in many departments for credit and some departments are entirely online,” she said. “Ouch.”


Despite the program cuts and a 10-percent increase in tuition, enrollment is up 4 percent from last year and students are filling up classes fast, Keegan said.


Fortunately, teachers have offered to allow overenrollment in their classes, he said.


“It’s reflective of the faculty, staff and administration’s commitment to the community and serving students,” he said.


Enrollment in the Running Start program continues to be strong, with 277 students this year, ranking PC sixth highest in participation out of 34 colleges in the state. Veterans’ enrollment is up, with 129 students, and this year there are 110 international students representing 20 different countries, Keegan said.


With the increased enrollment, increased costs and difficult economic times, it isn’t surprising the number of Pell Grants awarded has more than doubled over the past five years and applications set a new record this year.


“The financial aid staff are buried with students in need of financial aid and it’s a smaller staff than last year and they’re delivering,” he said, adding PC likely will award a record amount of financial aid this year.


While the cuts put stress on the institution, the spirit is good, the service levels are high and faculty returned Sept. 19 to get ready for school, he said.


“It’s a very tough mood but we’re very excited to welcome students back,” Keegan said.


For more information on Gustason’s sign language classes, e-mail her at


Reach Amanda Winters at


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