Giving Drop Forces Alaska Christian College Budget Cut

Post a Comment » Written on April 17th, 2009     
Filed under: News
SOLDOTNA, AK (April 17, 2009) – Alaska Christian College is cutting its operating budget by 16 percent – roughly $250,000 – to make up for a decline in giving, says President Keith Hamilton.

The new budget dropped from $1.55 million to $1.3 million over last year’s budget, Hamilton says. It is the first time since the school was founded in 2001 that it has had to reduce the budget.

To the contrary, Hamilton adds, “We have added each year approximately five percent in our income giving since our inception.”

Support has remained constant from Covenant churches in Alaska and the 49 other states, as well as Alaskan individuals, Hamilton says. But donations from individuals outside of Alaska for general operational giving have dropped 45 percent from the same quarter last year.

“This is significant when the far majority of donor gifts come from this group,” says Hamilton. “This current year’s budget will be over $100,000 short in just this one category alone.”

Contributions from churches outside the Covenant also have declined. One congregation cut all $12,000 of its annual giving due to the church’s own financial struggles, Hamilton says.

The school depends on donor income for 70 percent of its budget, with the rest coming from room, board, tuition, and conference fees, Hamilton says. “During a downturn of the economy we have very limited reserves to access.”

The school has cut some programs and other future programs are on hold. Many of the staff and faculty have moved to 11-month contracts, Hamilton says. Hours for part-time workers have been reduced.

“We have not had to pursue any layoffs at this time, for which we are very grateful,” Hamilton says.

The school plays a vital role in helping further the education of students, most of whom come from small and even remote Alaskan villages. The college helps students transition from village life to their first year of college.

Less than five percent of Alaska Native high school graduates complete even their first semester of college, statistics show. Alaska Christian College operates a minor part of its program in cooperation with nearby Kenai Peninsula College, an extension of the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

Government and education leaders have lauded the school. Former Lt. Governor Loren Leman said recently, “Alaska Christian College is one of the best things going today for an Alaska Native young person wanting a safe and supporting environment to transition from village life to a first year in college. Training in Biblical studies, practical life skills, and hands-on communication are added benefits. I am impressed with this school and its students – and am not surprised the accrediting agency also agreed.” Leman is the first Alaska Native elected to statewide office and is this year’s commencement speaker.

Last year, the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) granted the school “candidate for accreditation” status and had been impressed by the school’s mission to Alaska Natives.

At the time, Hamilton said the decision showed the school was considered an “excellent educational institution by our accrediting organization as well as the U.S. Department of Education.”

The decision also means that students are able to receive federal financial aid, as well as transfer credits to other accredited institutions. The decline in giving threatens the school’s chances for obtaining accreditation status in 2012, Hamilton says.

“As a candidate institution for accreditation, we have to maintain a certain level of program, funds in reserve, and balances in our curriculum offerings or we can possibly lose our candidate status in three years,” Hamilton says. “This is significant because without accreditation, the income for the college could drop another 25-30 percent.”

School officials have been contacting donors, and Hamilton says statistics show that 60 percent of past contributors whose giving had lapsed were not aware of it. Of that group, 30 percent said they are likely to continue giving again.

“We hope this is the case as we remind our most generous donors to not forget us way up north in Alaska, where it is still snowing and we have over a foot of snow still on the ground,” Hamilton says. “It may be a cold and dark place part of our year, but the signs of spring remind us now that God’s provision is all around us once again.”

Hamilton notes that the ACC has reached several positive benchmarks this year:
•    Largest full-time equivalency of students in the school’s history
•    More funding in scholarship support for students than in any other year
•    First-year ACC students have received funding for student room, board, and tuition
•    Full staffing in all areas of campus life and administration

Additionally, the New Hope Counseling Center (NHCC) building will be constructed this summer. Two donors and a foundation have paid for the project in full.

The NHCC is a separate 501c3 organization and is not part of the ACC budget. “In fact, they are having their best year ever for client visits,” Hamilton says.

To make a donation to the school, open the link below, print the form and mail contributions as directed. To donate online, visit the ACC website and select the donation link at the upper right portion of the home page.

ACC-Donation-Form.doc ACC-Donation-Form.doc

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