Central Lakes College officials on Thursday discussed how recent funding reductions have affected college programs with Sen. Michelle Fishbach (left), R-Paynesville, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. Fishbach and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, met with administrators, faculty and students and toured the Brainerd campus in the wake of an approximate $1 million decline in state appropriations for the school between fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2012. The lawmakers learned that the difference was made up through about $1 million in personnel cost cuts, increased class size, not replacing some of the 13 staff members who retired, and by cutting $400,000 from the operating budget. The cuts have come at a time when the headcount for 2011 is 6,244, with most of the students coming from a seven-county area that includes Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Aitkin, Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. CLC President Larry Lundblad said Minnesota has the highest counselor to student ratio in the state. The school’s students, he said, often drive relatively long distances to school since there’s no college housing and higher gas prices have coupled with high tuition to put students in a bind. “These counties up here are some of the poorest in the state,” Lundblad said. He said the school serves about 1,700 high school students who are taking college classes through CLC. For some of the smaller schools, he said, “We’re kind of becoming senior year.” Fishbach commended the school for forming partnerships with industry and with the community. “I think they’re doing great things,” she said.