A tuition increase for MCCC students in the Fall semester was approved Monday night by the Board of Trustees.
Trustee Bill Braunlich read from a report prepared by the board’s Strategic Financial Planning Committee.
“MCCC continues to face serious and accelerating challenges at a time of record enrollment and record demand for services,” Braunlich said.
The report included information on MCCC’s financial background, recommendations for the cost of tuition, and notes to explain the suggestions to the board.
Tuition for in-county students will go up $5 per contact hour, a 7.5 percent increase. Out-of-county-students’ tuition will increase by $9 per contact hour, and out-of-state students’ tuition will increase by $10.
Board Chairman Bill Bacarella defended the larger increase for out-of-county residents.
“This college is meant for Monroe County students,” Bacarella said.
There will be no increase in the technology fee for the Fall.
Rates for billable contact hours for Fall 2010:
Current Rate New rate Fall 2010 increase
In-District Students $67 $72 (+$5)
Out-of-District Students $115 $124 (+$9)
Out-of-State Students $128 $138 ($10)
Because of the unstable economy, tuition rates will be analyzed each semester, Braunlich said. Winter 2011 tuition rates will be reviewed in the fall, he said.
In comparison to other Michigan colleges and universities, MCCC still has a relatively low tuition rate. The increase moves MCCC into a tie for the lowest tuition among community colleges in the state.
With a predicted enrollment increase of 3 percent, the rise in tuition is expected to bring in $800,000. That will help with a predicted revenue loss from local and state funding of $1.5 to $2 million, according to the committee’s report.
To make up for some of the remaining shortfall, the board has decided that any extra income should be left in the college’s reserve fund.
Braunlich said having any kind of positive number at the end of the year is great, but it doesn’t tell the story of what is missing.
“We aren’t getting enough surplus funds to meet the college’s needs,” he said.
“We don’t have the money to launch new programs,” Braunlich said. “It costs close to half a million dollars to launch a new program.”
The money in reserves is used to support the cash flow into the college. It is used for unexpected expenses and maintenance costs.
“It costs between $1.1 million to $1.2 million to keep status quo at the college,” Vice President of Business Affairs and Treasurer Tim Bennett said.
Braunlich said if there is no new money in the reserves, they would eventually run dry.
“That would be an economic Armageddon for this institution,” he said.
Another concern of the trustees was that record enrollment does not translate into record revenues.
But because of the record enrollment, there is a record demand for MCCC’s services.
Only about 30 percent of the college’s revenue comes from tuition, Bacarella said.
The other two thirds of revenue are created by income from property taxes and state funding.
“Property taxes are down by 14.67 percent,” Bacarella said.
Bennett has previously explained that revenues from property taxes decreased by 2 percent last year. The last three years before that, the college received a 4.8 percent increase in revenues from property taxes.
State funding for the next year could decrease by a projected 3.1 percent, according to the committee.
“The state has no legal obligation to fund us at all. A discretionary funding formula is used to calculate the amount we will receive,” he said.
The college has no control over these forms of revenue, Braunlich said.
“MCCC is working hard just to financially tread water,” Bacarella said.
The trustees said the budget is out of balance, because it will not generate the surplus money MCCC will need for its future health and prosperity.
“Even if a new building was donated to the college, we couldn’t afford the operating expenses for the building,” he said.
Braunlich also pointed out that tuition was not raised last year and that the switch to contact hours was a methodology change, not a rate change.
Financial aid is becoming increasingly available, he said. And the more costly health care programs continue to experience record enrollment.
“We must balance all obligations to all of our stakeholders,” Braunlich said.
“These are my personal thoughts; if I have any concern, it’s that we’re not raising tuition enough in light of the concern.”
After the committee’s report was reviewed, Trustee Linda Lauer read a statement she had previously prepared.
“We must continue to ask hard questions about major policy changes and assess the effect that our policy decisions have on our constituents,” she said.
“Let’s not disempower our students or our great staff by framing the debate in a self-defeating manner. It is a “rainy day” for the college; it is a monsoon for our constituents.”
Some MCCC students gave their reactions to the tuition increase.
“I still think the prices here are pretty good,” student Diane McIntyre said.
Student Todd Sawyer disagrees.
“I don’t think it’s right. I think they can find other ways to accomodate problems,” he said.