By Stephen Cook
When Brown & Gold club members went to enroll this fall, some were told the program was no longer available and others were unable to find information about membership. Likewise, some members went to the campus fitness center, only to be told the program would no longer be happening.
Judy Korb, executive vice president of academic affairs and operations, said this information was born from an initial misunderstanding at a meeting earlier this year.
“It wasn’t really misinformation,” Korb said. “It was just sort of like people acting on the discussion that had taken place before it was really, actually finalized and all the whole process was in place and all the decisions had been made so that everybody knew here’s what needs to happen, when.”
Now, information is being gathered so concrete decisions can be made for the spring.
The club currently allows those 55 and older to take free classes, use the fitness center and receive discounts to events for a yearly fee of $10.
At the end of the summer, focus groups were held, made up of folks from the Brown & Gold advisory board, active club members and individuals who had contacted the college looking to provide feedback about the topic.
“At the focus groups we pretty much just ask them what benefits they have taken advantage of, what benefits they would most like to see retained, trying to get an idea of what parts of this are most important to people,” Korb said.
One of the ideas being considered involves negotiations with an organization that cannot currently be named.
“We are looking at merging activities with another organization that provides similar benefits,” Korb said.
Joe Sopcich, president, has been looking at the budget to see where money can be saved.
“We’re kind of stepping back, we’re looking at different programs and assessing them,” Sopcich said. “With Brown & Gold, basically is there a better way that we can do this, a better more efficient way that we can still meet people’s needs?”
Though classes may be free for club members, Sopcich said the college still has to budget for the cost.
“Our interpretation of the state statute was that whenever anybody takes the class we have to cover the cost,” Sopcich said. “Those costs then were put in our budget. So if those costs were eliminated, then we have budget savings.”
The way costs for the club are accounted for means the money still needs to be in the budget.
“It’s not like we’re writing a check to anybody, but we still have to have that money budgeted,” Sopcich said. “So if you budget $150,000 or you budget $300,000 and you don’t have to budget anymore, that money can be used for something else, or it can be savings.”
Sopcich said these choices are all about the budget.
“I believe last year we allocated $330,000 to cover that, and that’s a lot of money,” Sopcich said.
Paula Smith, who has been involved with the Brown and Gold program for about seven years, said the program is very unique to the college and members aren’t negatively affecting classes.
“I don’t know if there’s any other programs like this,” Smith said. “I think it’s really good because if a younger student hasn’t signed up for that program by the deadline when we can sign up, they’re not going to sign up. We’re not taking seats away from anyone else.”
Smith said she would rather learn at the college than independently from a book. She doesn’t need the classes, she takes them because she enjoys learning.
“I would much prefer to be able to come here and take the class,” Smith said. “If they’re the least bit creative they can find grants because this is an amazing program.”
Looking ahead, Korb would like to get a decision made soon so the plan can be shared and made known.
“My goal is to get all of the feedback and input and get a decision made by [the end of September], so that we can get hard and fast communication out to people that says, here’s what’s definitely going to happen,” Korb said.
An announcement should come at the beginning of October, according to Korb, detailing the changes that will be made to the club in the spring.
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Contact Stephen Cook, editor-in-chief, at email@example.com.