Local News

Wake Tech freezing more than hiring

Posted October 21, 2008 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2008 7:02 p.m. EDT

— Students at Wake Technical Community College will want to pack more than pencils and books when they head to class in the coming weeks.

"In the wintertime, bring a jacket. In the summer, come in short sleeves and shorts," Wake Tech President Stephen Scott said Tuesday.

The college plans to turn down the thermostats in its buildings this winter and reduce the air-conditioning next summer to trim its utility costs, Scott said.

"We're looking at every possible way we can save a dollar and move that to the instruction of students," he said.

State agencies, including the North Carolina Community College System, have been ordered to cut 3 percent of their 2008-09 budgets to make up for lower-than-projected tax collections in the struggling economy.

In addition to adjusting the thermostat, Wake Tech has implemented a hiring freeze on administrative positions and a ban on out-of-state travel.

Scott said he's preparing for even bigger cuts, which could include layoffs.

"It's a real possibility around 6 percent (in cuts), a very real possibility at that point in time," he said.

The cuts come as Wake Tech's enrollment grows. Scott said enrollment is up 13 percent from a year ago, noting people traditionally return to school to upgrade their skills in tough economic times.

The bad economy could mean some students won't have a place to study, however. Wake Tech was counting on getting $50 million from bond sales for several building projects, but administrators can access only half of that amount because of tight credit markets.

Wake County Manager David Cooke said projects already under construction should be completed, but everything else could face delays.

"I'm not sure we've gotten to the point where we've put any project on hold," Cooke said. "We will meet monthly before bids are awarded to get a better handle of (whether) we cover those bids."