Chapter 8, Part 1 – Economic Downturn 1982

Economic downturns are cyclic and they never rebound as quickly as they plummet. The U.S. economy would follow an almost predictable recessionary cycle through the mid-80s.

President Ronald Reagan captured and controlled the White House, but the economy was largely influenced by conditions beyond his control. The Reagan administration proposed belt-tightening measures in response to worsening economic conditions. One proposal was to significantly reduce federal financial aid. The Council for the Advancement in Support of Education considered the proposed reductions draconian and excessive. If enacted, the council predicted the failure of 250 institutions of higher learning.

The cuts were not proposed to take place until 1983, but the Association of Chiropractic Colleges placed this item at the very top of the agenda for discussion at their annual meeting as some of the chiropractic colleges were expressing fears they would close. WSCC students would be hit especially hard if federal student financial aid was cut by the 25 percent proposed by the Reagan administration.

CCE memo re federal education budget cuts
Letter to congress re federal education budget cuts

The college was already hard hit by a projected 16 percent decline in enrollment for fiscal year 1981-82. The enrollment picture got even gloomier when the Carnegie Study for Higher Education released its findings in the spring, predicting further drops in enrollment at all colleges because of decreasing numbers of high school students. Even worse, the study predicted enrollment would decrease by as much as 38 percent and would last through the year 2000. The nationwide economic downturn hit practicing chiropractors, as well, and contributions to the college slowed to a trickle.

The college administration calculated that savings could be made if it moved to a once-per-year entrance. This move had been contemplated before, but increases in applications from prospective students were a disincentive to move in that direction. Now, however, the future was foreboding. In a few short years, the glut of student applicants would dry up and not return for a long time. The college had to prepare for this inevitability.

April 1981 Commencement Exercise Program
June 1981 Commencement Exercise Program
September 1981 Commencement Exercise Program
December 1981 Commencement Exercise Program

As early as February 1982, the college projected a budgetary shortfall of $52,000. Revenue from clinics was off by $76,000 and available work-study money was down $14,000. Across the nation, students were finding it difficult to obtain enough financial aid to support enrollment to first professional degree programs like those offered by law schools, medical colleges, and chiropractic colleges.

Only 94 of the projected 150 new students enrolled at WSCC in fall 1982. This represented an immediate loss of $84,000 in anticipated revenue for the fiscal year and a projected loss of $924,000 over the next four years. This was a devastating blow to efforts by the college to stabilize its finances.

1981-82 Budget with projections for 82-83

The college could not sustain any additional losses in revenue for the fiscal year without undermining its commitment to maintain a financially stable institution. The college reversed its decision on a once-per-year fall enrollment and admitted 31 students in January 1982. From a financial perspective, this was a very wise decision.

By enrolling a class in winter term, even a small one of 31 students, the college cut the projected four-year revenue shortfall by half. This would help tremendously, but it would not be enough to avoid another round of belt-tightening measures. Surprisingly, at a time when almost every other chiropractic college was contracting, WSCC found ways to expand. Achieving accreditation freed the college from the all-consuming task of pursuing it. The college now had a foreseeable future and it moved to realize it.

In April 1982, the college submitted an application for regional accreditation to the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWASC). WSCC plan for recognition through NWASC. The college intended to offer a Bachelor of Science degree and needed regional accreditation to do so. Achieving accreditation through the NWASC would be no easier than achieving accreditation through the CCE. Nevertheless, moving in this direction afforded the college its best opportunity to advance beyond the parochial limitations imposed by the chiropractic profession. Drs. Vear and Tolar saw significant benefit coming from the college’s participation in the greater higher education arena.

The college submitted a self-study along with its application to the NWASC. The application was accepted by the association and a site-team visit was scheduled for fall 1982. The visit went exceptionally well. During the exit interview with senior college administrators, the site-team shared its impressions of WSCC. They hinted that a favorable recommendation to the NWASC would be forthcoming from the site team.

In July 1982, Lester Lamm, DC, returned to WSCC from his chiropractic clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal to join the clinic faculty as a clinic director. Dr. Lamm had a particular interest in minor surgery and performed most of the surgical procedures while at the outpatient clinic. Eventually, he assumed responsibility for teaching the minor surgery course, something he did for 17 years. Dr. Lamm also served in a number of administrative positions before retiring in 2009.

In reaching agreement with the attorney general of Washington State, the college felt that it had adequately resolved its differences with the Washington Board of Chiropractic Examiners. In November 1982, the WBCE adopted an amendment to its rules regarding licensure that required graduates of chiropractic colleges to complete no less than 200 hours of “chiropractic philosophy,” 120 of which must be specifically identified as such in the catalog of the chiropractic college from which the applicant graduated.

Chiropractic colleges placing an emphasis on chiropractic philosophy would have no difficulty in complying with this requirement. However, WSCC did not place an emphasis on this field of study and did not have 120 hours of course work entitled, “Chiropractic Philosophy,” in its catalog. Consequently, WSCC graduates applying for licensure in Washington were ineligible. This unfortunate situation would require appeals from WSCC and other chiropractic colleges finding themselves in the same predicament.

THE WESTERN STATEment December 1982
March 1982 Commencement Exercise Program
June 1982 Commencement Exercise Program
September 1982 Commencement Exercise Program
December 1982 Commencement Exercise Program

1982 would have ended on this depressing note were it not for the arrival of more favorable news from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. The NWASC notified the college of its decision to grant WSCC “candidate status.” This encouraged the college to stay its course with an approach to chiropractic education that was free of dogma, based on good science and rational in its practices. Another endorsement, albeit small in comparison, came from the New Zealand Chiropractic Board, which informed the college that graduates from WSCC could sit for licensure in its jurisdiction.

New Zealand recognition of WSCC