A 20 percent funding cut to Cal Poly’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) is forcing the center to conserve resources this summer.
The DRC, which provides note-taking, counseling, transportation and other services for students with disabilities or illnesses, is facing a cumulative cut to its funding of approximately 35 percent over the past four years, DRC director Trey Duffy said. In previous years, the university has helped make up the deficit with one-time funding reserves, but the money has finally run out, Duffy said.
“The university has just gotten to a point where it’s sort of exhausted those funds,” Duffy said.
The DRC has been working to accommodate for reduced funding by cutting positions, by cutting three out of a total seven-and-a-half positions , Duffy said. If any more jobs are cut, though, the DRC won’t be able to provide services such as counseling or test taking for sick students, Duffy said.
Though most students see the DRC driving students around campus or recruiting note-takers, a lot of money and energy goes toward counseling as well, Duffy said.
“That kind of independent one-on-one help that we do, that’s a big part of what we do,” Duffy said.
Because the DRC’s services are state mandated, almost all of their funding is provided by the state, making them harder hit by budget cuts than organizations such as Associated Students, Inc. which is supported in large part by student fees, Duffy said.
The school could also face penalties from the Office of Civil Rights if the services aren’t adequate, because of their state-mandated status, which puts the DRC in a double bind.
A reduction in service may also damage the academic performance of disabled students who rely on its services, Duffy said.
“It could jeopardize some students’ ability to stay in school and graduate,” Duffy said.
Currently, the DRC has enough money to run through the end of June, and it is searching for alternative funding sources, applying for Instructionally Related Activities funding, Student Success Fee funding and others, Duffy said.
Finding more funds may be difficult though, because of how hard hit most of the campus is, Duffy said.
“The entire university is under a pretty difficult time,” Duffy said. “I don’t think we’re unique in that we’re struggling.”
If more funding isn’t secured by July 1, “we will turn over every stone that is available out there,” Duffy said.
Until more funding is secured, the DRC is working at reducing costs while maintaining services. In addition to the three full-time position cuts, five students also lost jobs working in alternative media, which provides supplies such as audio books to visually impaired students, student support services coordinator Debie McArdle said.
The DRC also reduced tram services from two drivers to one and cut Friday hours, limiting the amount of students that can be transported, McArdle said. Currently, with one driver, if multiple students need to be picked up, they may have to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a ride and are often late to class, McArdle said.
“We’re hurting over here, right now, just trying to do the best we can,” McArdle said.
According to McArdle, overall morale has dropped, though. DRC employees have lost jobs and had hours cut, which is disheartening, McArdle said.
In addition, many DRC employees regret that they can’t provide the same services they used to, McArdle said.
“We all love our jobs, which makes it good and hard at the same time,” McArdle said.
Those cut hours and reduced students have also affected student employees at the DRC, front desk program assistant and modern languages and literature sophomore Danny Brosnahan said. In addition, the front desk now answers the tram service’s phone because of the shortage of employees.
Though he dislikes the cuts, Brosnahan said he understands they’re unavoidable.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Brosnahan said. “I think it’s necessary given the state of things.”