P-fac Commissions Study of CCC Finances; CPA Firm Finds College on Solid Financial Ground Even as Administrators Cut Staff, Enlarge Courses and Eliminate Whole Departments

CHICAGO – For the first time, the detailed operating expenses and budget at Columbia College Chicago have been revealed through a study commissioned by P-fac, the union representing part-time faculty at the college.


According to the study, completed by a certified public accounting firm, spending on part-time faculty salaries is $13.3 million per academic year, or only 6 percent of the total college budget and just 13 percent of all wages and salaries paid to all employees at Columbia College.


Part-time faculty members teach at least 48 percent of all Columbia College classes.


 Despite years of repeated calls for transparency, Columbia College administrators have refused to fully reveal the college budget. The study commissioned by P-fac and completed by Graff, Ballauer & Blanski, a certified public accounting firm in Northfield, analyzed the annually published CCC financial statements and found that the college spends $101.1 million on all salaries and wages, but just 13 percent of that total is paid to part-timers.


 “The college administration has told us many times that spending on part-time salaries is too high,” said P-fac President Diana Vallera. “To cut back on spending for instruction, classes have been enlarged, departments have been combined and some programs have been dropped because they are said to be too expensive –all of which has severely undermined students’ education.”


Outside experts also commented on the financial report.


 Professor Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, said, “A review of Columbia College’s audited financial statement reveals that there is no financial justification for the school’s elimination of entire departments, laying off dozens of support staff, merging of departments, or enlarging class size. The college’s actions are more typical of an investor-driven private firm in which workers are asked to do more with less and customers receive a reduced level of service. Nor is there any bottom-line excuse for hiring inexperienced people to teach and not honoring the collective bargaining agreement, which calls for assigning senior part-time faculty to classes.”


P-fac maintains a database of all of its members, which includes the number of courses taught by each and the pay received, which is based on the tier system. The study was completed by tallying the 3,065 classes assigned in spring 2014; of those, 1,470, or 48 percent, were assigned to part-time faculty; but their pay accounted for just 6 percent of the colleges projected budget.


The accounting firm audited financial statements released by Columbia College during the years 2010-2014 — years that saw repeated claims of financial distress by President Kwang-Wu Kim and Provost Stan Wearden. But the college’s financial position improved each year, and the long-term debt and liabilities fell each year during the reporting period, the firm found.


Each year the colleges net assets increased  — by 5.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, by 9 percent from $357.9 million in 2010 to $390 million in 2011, by 3.7 percent to $404 million from 2011 to 2012, by 7.5 percent to $434.6 million from 2012 to 2013, and by 0.04 percent to $434.8 million from 2013 to 2014.


The college’s long-term debt decreased from $104.1 million in 2010 to $92.3 million in 2014, the accounting firm reported.


Columbia’s endowment totaled $135.2 million in 2014, a 14.7 percent increase over the previous year.


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