CBC Moves to Close $300,000 Budget Gap

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STRATHMORE, AB (March 27, 2006) – Covenant Bible College (CBC) has initiated additional expense reductions to address a remaining budget deficit of approximately $300,000, largely the result of enrollment that dropped 25 percent over the last year, says Paul Lessard, executive vice president.

The cuts include severing the college’s financial relationship with the Worship Center in Windsor, Colorado, trimming staff, and keeping next year’s budgeted spending at current levels with no increases. The cuts were announced in a letter to constituents two weeks ago. CBC, with three campuses in Canada, Colorado and Ecuador, operates under a unified budget.

Enrollment had been slowly declining, Lessard says, but 40 fewer students elected to attend the school this year, resulting in a class size of 123 and an initial projected deficit of $476,000. “In immediate response, budget cuts were made wherever possible throughout CBC – excepting personnel,” Lessard says, which resulted in lowering this year’s projected operating deficit to $300,000.

Lessard says school officials hoped that increased recruiting efforts would turn around the decline, but projections continued to show a drop for the coming year. That necessitated the latest actions.

“The Worship Center was released and not closed by CBC,” Lessard says, noting that the college is willing to continue offering facilities if that is what the center desires. Both institutions are pursuing what they term “a discernment process.”

The Windsor campus opened in 1998 and has provided funding, facilities and financial oversight for the Worship Center, which opened in 1999. The current relationship will cease June 1.

The two institutions generally have served different student bodies and have had different missions, says the center’s director, Katie Martinez. “It was a really mission-focused decision.”

CBC is a one-year discipleship training program. Most CBC students complete the one-year program before entering a traditional four-year undergraduate program, while some transfer to CBC after attending at least a year at a four-year school.

The Worship Center trains worship leaders for local church staff ministry. “Most of our students are graduate students,” Martinez says.

New opportunities also exist for the Worship Center, say Lessard and Martinez. Lessard founded the Worship Center and believes the days ahead are promising. “There’s a sense of loss, but it’s like a teen leaving the house.” He adds, “I’m really excited about the direction that Katie is taking (the center).”

Martinez says she hopes the school can work even more closely with churches and donors to provide financial support.

The college will reduce faculty beginning in the fall. The CBC-Colorado faculty will move from four full-time equivalents to three. The faculty at CBC-Canada will be reduced by one full-time position.

Declining enrollment has been due to a number of factors, Lessard says. The increasing cost of attending a four-year college has been a major consideration. As that cost rises, families have been more reluctant to pay for a year of Bible college.

Attending CBC for one year costs about the same as attending a public university, Lessard says. Unlike state schools, however, students in the United States are unable to get student loans to cover schools like CBC, while students in Canada are eligible.

Enrollment at Bible colleges across the country has been either flat or in decline for several years, Lessard says. “Students are increasingly focused on degrees that will lead to employment. That’s a very demonstrable trend across the country.”

As Bible colleges struggle to attract students, the number of full-time university students in Canada has risen 23 percent over the last four years, Lessard says. Universities in the United States have experienced an enrollment increase of 13 percent over the past five years.

Lessard says he understands the financial pressures on families, but adds that the discipleship training the students receive will last a lifetime and help them weather the many life changes they will undergo, including the choice of colleges and majors. “The major myth is that students go to one school,” Lessard says. Many students, however, attend more than one. “The average student changes majors five times and goes to three (four-year) schools,” he notes.

Lessard says students who attend CBC tend to stay at the college they later attend because they have had more time to work through issues common to the college age group. “We’re providing the perfect venue for students to ask those questions.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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