Not making cents

Center for Academic Success Director Crystal Kiekel expressed relief after the CAS budget was restored into their account Monday morning, following Kiekel bringing the issue of missing money to the attention of the Pierce College community.

In June 2019, Kiekel was told that everyone received a 5% budget cut across the board, and that $40,000 had been restored to the CAS budget. So Kiekel hired the fall of 2019 tutoring staff in July. 

However, in early August, when asking to make a routine modification to one of the positions, she was notified the CAS had no budget.

“Assuming this was a mistake, we went on with our business,” Kiekel said. “But we kept asking questions of anyone who would listen about what was going on with our budget.”

In the beginning of the 2018-19 budget year, Kiekel looked at the CAS budget and saw it was at $0, so she reported this to the Earic Dixon-Peters and Juan Carlos Astorga, and CAS went on spending, assuming that the “glitch” would be fixed. 

“When the year ended, we were told that the CAS had overspent its budget. I again reminded our dean and VP that I told them at the beginning of the fiscal year that our money was somehow glitched away, and I didn’t hear anything about it again,” Kiekel said. 

When Kiekel realized this wasn’t just a glitch and the CAS wasn’t going to have the funds to pay the tutors for the month of November, she decided that making noise just to administration wasn’t going to be enough and she had to go public. 

Pierce College provides about 10% of the tutoring budget. This is because it’s the only unrestricted pot of money that the college has. Most of the funding is restricted and can only be spent in a certain way. Therefore, subjects that cannot be covered by restricted funds must all compete for that 10% of the college’s tutoring budget.

Categorical funds cover English, math, English as a second language and gatekeeper courses, which are courses that have high enrollment and low success rates. All other subjects must come out of that college budget.

Having tutors accessible to the students is important because CAS sees every student as being capable of success with the right kind of support that they may not receive in class or be able to conjure on their own. 

Parisa Borzouei, one of the tutors at the CAS, says students know students better and this contributes to students being able to digest the content better when another student explains it to them.

“Tutors usually know what parts students have troubles with because they have been there, so they can explain everything in an easier way, rather than the professors version,” Borzouei said. 

Bruce Rosky, associate vice president, broke down that the budgeting process takes place six months before the annual year begins. Due to the $4.5 million deficit the school is facing, some of the programs had to make cuts.

“Our budget process is very prescribed,” Rosky said. “All variable cost took a 5% reduction from what was spent in the prior year, so we took what was spent in the previous year, took out 5% and gave that out to the departments.”

Rosky explained that there should not be money missing, only a cut to what departments were able to do in the previous year. 

Kiekel said she has maintained the utmost respect for her colleagues throughout this process, because reducing a budget and making everything run smoothly is a difficult task. But after complaining for a year and a half, she had to go public because “enough was enough.”

Now that the budget has been restored to the CAS account, tutors can get paid and students can continue to use the resources that Pierce College provides for them.