Facing a cut of $800,000 in state money, North Iowa Area Community College is announcing a series of moves to tighten its budgetary belt. NIACC President Debra Derr says her staff has worked for weeks to find solutions that would have the least impact on the Mason City-based college.

"We met with the staff and talked with them about what they thought we should do and they were wonderful," Derr says. "The reality for us was, to meet that $800,000 mark, we could not do that without some very drastic and significant changes."

For starters, the college is eliminating its football program, laying off seven full-time employees and will leave six open positions unfilled. A tuition increase may also be an option, she says, while they’re also assessing employee wage and benefit options. Derr says even though the college had record enrollment last semester, it doesn’t mean there’s extra money in the bank.

"Revenue generated through tuition is immediate," she says. "A student registers for the class and within a prescribed time, they pay their tuition. The state monies that come in to us come into us a delayed way…it’s one to two years out." While an increase in enrollment means an increase in tuition dollars, it also means an increase in costs.

Derr says even with the cuts, Iowa’s community colleges are in much better shape when compared to similar colleges in neighboring states. Wisconsin has a $5.4 billion deficit while Minnesota is considering closing colleges.

"We’re in good shape," Derr says, "but when you’re talking about people and their families, it doesn’t make it any easier, even though it could be worse." Other cost-saving moves at NIACC include travel and equipment purchases being reduced, and the school’s general catalog of offerings will no longer be printed — it’ll only be available online.

The cuts come after Governor Culver’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget called for a 6.5%cut in funding for the state’s community colleges.