Employee pay tops budget

Lorrie Reyes / Roundup


When new classes begin, some instructors introduces themselves by sharing some background information like where they went to school and how long they have been teaching, while others jump straight into their lectures.

During the past year, Pierce College has hired 25 new full-time instructors with new background information to share with their classes.

“We have made (hiring full-time faculty]) our priority when other colleges have not been hiring full timers,” said Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh, vice president of academic affairs. ” We did that as a commitment to our instructional programs.”

During the 2009-10 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, the final budget given to Pierce from the Los Angeles Community College District was more than $65 million, according to Kenneth Takeda, vice president of administrative services.

A majority of that $65 million went to instructor’s salaries.

“For the college as a whole, about 90 percent of our budget goes towards salaries and employee benefits,” Takeda said. “The remaining 10 percent is spread among the paper supplies, utilities, maintenance of equipment and whatever services we have to buy to keep the college running.”

Pierce’s subtotal for personnel comprised more than 91 percent of Pierce’s budget, or $56.66 million, according to the LACCD’s final 2008-09 budget.

“Faculty are the core of the program,” Abu-Ghazaleh said. “Full time (faculty) are a priority for us.”

If Pierce’s priority is the faculty, where do the students fit in?

Within the $65 million budget, only $403,000 is budgeted for equipment replacement and maintenance for all departments.

“For the most part, our operating budget doesn’t cover the cost of the equipment,” Takeda said. “It is not something we focus on. The greatest number of classes being offered (per department) gets the most money.”

Takeda said the average cost of running an instructional program is between $4,000 and $5,000, depending on a teacher’s salary.

At a time when classes are being cut, is the hiring of so many new faculty members primarily to benefit the students?

Not according to the “Full-Time Faculty Obligation” of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that all community college districts in California must abide by.

Commonly known as the 75/25 law, it states that each college within the district should have 75 percent of the faculty be full-time employees and the remaining 25 percent be part-time employees.

“We’re required to try to achieve that ratio,” Takeda said. “We are below it. We spend less on full-time instructors than we are supposed to under that law.”

Pierce and LACCD had about the same average at 56 percent full timers, according to Takeda.

But although the district and Pierce have not yet hit the 75-percent mark, the state does allow a bit of leeway if the district is making strides in the right direction.

If districts within California don’t try to get closer to the 75/25 ratio, the chancellor’s office can enforce a penalty.

“It’s both an obligation to comply by the law and a financial decision to not get fined by the state’s chancellors’ office,” Takeda said.

Although the hiring of full-time instructors is more costly than part-time professors, there are pros for having more full-time faculty on campus.

For instance, despite the fact a full-time student could benefit from having their professors on campus when needed, the modern-day instructor is only an e-mail or phone call away.

“I like when teachers are on campus all the time because then I can find them and bother them with questions,” said Allie Baron, a part-time student at Pierce. “Part-time teachers don’t have as much time to meet with you during the week. It’s harder to get a hold of them.”

The benefit of keeping an instructor for a longer period of time is also important to the college.

“When you hire a full-time faculty member, you are expecting them to stay in the college for 10, 20, 30 years,” Abu-Ghazaleh said. “That’s the biggest investment that a college makes.”