- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming community colleges won some peace of mind during this winter’s legislative session when it comes to overall state aid they receive.

Lawmakers approved changes in the way they provide state aid to the college campuses based in Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan, Riverton, Rock Springs, Powell and Torrington, said Matt Petry, deputy director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. The changes aim to bring stability to community college funding.

“The real positive for the colleges is they know what their funding is every year essentially, instead of as it has been for the past six years where they were never quite sure how much money they would receive in terms of enrollment-growth funding,” Petry said.

Under the current system, state funding is based on enrollment numbers dating back to the 2004-2005 academic year, and community colleges had to ask lawmakers for extra money every year if their enrollments exceeded those base levels.

“Over that six-year period, the colleges received about 70 percent of what was requested,” Petry said.

On top of that, any funding they received was good for only for a two-year budget period, meaning colleges had to keep going back to the Legislature asking for more. “Those were all one-time appropriations, so they didn’t know whether that same level of support would be there in the next biennium,” Petry said.

Under the new system, enrollment at the colleges will be recalibrated every four years, and state funding will be adjusted accordingly.

“If enrollment numbers are down from four years previously, the colleges can stand to lose some funding, and conversely if enrollment is up from where it was four years previously then the colleges would stand to gain some funding,” Petry said. “So it provides them with stability and the ability to make plans for long-term projects.”

Separately, legislators appropriated $11.75 million in general funds for two building projects at community colleges. Northern Wyoming Community College District will get $6.5 million for a technical education center, and Central Wyoming College will get $5.25 million for an agriculture-animal science building. The money represents half the cost of the projects, meaning each college will be responsible for the rest.

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