Coastal Bend College students will pay more to go to school this fall.
Trustees voted reluctantly Thursday to increase tuition by an additional $3 per course per semester.
The board also voted, equally reluctantly, to charge a $250 fee to students enrolled in vocational nursing, registered nursing, radiology technician and dental hygiene classes.
Trustee Fred Morón was the only board member to vote against the tuition and fee increase.
“I want to do what’s right for the students,” he said. “I think this is really going to be a hardship on the students.”
College President Dr. Thomas Baynum said the tuition increase was needed just to maintain the courses already offered.
“This is one of the most distasteful things I’ve done since I became your president — ask for a tuition increase,” he said.
However, the tuition increase will help the college offset rising costs of fuel, electricity, insurance and other necessities, he explained.
The college cannot generate the funding it needs by raising taxes because the tax base is so low. A 1 cent increase in the tax rate yields about $100,000.
Trustees voted last fall to increase the tax rate by 1 cent in order to help fund the planned expansion of the health science department.
Baynum said the $100,000 or so generated by the increase pays the salary and benefits for a full-time instructor “and not much else.”
The additional revenue generated by the increase proposed Thursday is not planned for salaries, he assured the board.
Baynum recommended an increase of $5 per semester hour, which he figured would generate around $300,000.
Trustee Emilia Dominguez said she feared the tuition increase would lead to a decline in student enrollment.
“This will hurt the students who can least afford to pay for a tuition increase,” she said.
The college raised tuition three years ago for students living outside of Bee County. College administrators believe that increase led to a significant decline in enrollment in 2006, which led the state to cut funding to the college by more than $1 million.
Lawmakers allocate funding to colleges and universities based on enrollment. The more students enrolled the more funding the college or university receives from the state.
The legislature will base its funding allocation for the next two years on students enrollment this year.
Baynum said it’s important that Coastal Bend College have a high enrollment this year in order to receive the most amount of funding from the state.
He said he hopes the tuition increase will not deter students from enrolling at CBC.
Board President Paul Jaure said the increased approved Thursday would be spread evenly among all Coastal Bend College students, and not just those living outside of Bee County.
Baynum told trustees that many students attending CBC — at least 70 percent — will qualify for federal Pell grants, which will help them defray the costs of college.
He said the college is seeking out additional grants and scholarships as well for students.
Morón said he wanted to know specifically why the college needed a tuition increase before he would vote for one. He asked Baynum to provide the board with specific cost increases in the 2008-09 budget.
Baynum said he would get that information for the board.
Baynum noted that a $5 per semester class hour increase would cost a student taking a full class load — 12 semester hours — an additional $60 per semester.
Dominguez shared Morón’s concerns and asked Baynum if he was certain the college couldn’t find the funding elsewhere in the budget.
“There’s no fluff in the budget, is there?” she asked, referring to unnecessary expenses.
Baynum said the budget for the coming school year is lean as can be.
Dominguez asked Baynum whether the college could survive without the tuition increase.
He assured her the college has enough money in its reserve fund to get it through without a tuition increase.
He reminded trustees, though, that they had set a goal of increasing the reserve fund so that there would be plenty of money on hand if ever the college experienced another shortfall in state funding as it did in 2007.
He said the college could use some of its reserve funds to offset rising costs instead of raising tuition and delay increasing the reserve fund till next year.
Trustee Grady Hogue Jr. made a motion to adopt a tuition increase of only $3 per semester credit hour as a compromise.
“It’s not a bad compromise,” Trustee Caroll Lohse said. “We just won’t have as much money in the bank for a rainy day as we had wanted.”
Lohse and the rest of the board, barring Morón, voted in favor of Hogue’s idea.
“It’s still a bargain versus a university,” Trustee R.W. Dirks said.
After voting on the tuition increase, trustees debated the merits of charging a $250 fee for students enrolled in health science courses such as nursing, dental hygiene and radiology technician.
Again, Baynum assured the board that the fee is necessary to fund the programs.
He said he didn’t think it would be fair to pass the costs of the programs onto other students not enrolled in the programs.
And he reiterated that a tax increase would do little to offset rising costs.
He also reminded trustees that the 1 cent tax rate increase that generated $100,000 only pays for a single instructor.
Indeed, Baynum said, health science classes typically lose money for colleges because they require more equipment and more instructors than typical college classes such as English, math or history.
He said health science classes help college’s make money by drawing students to the other classes they need to complete their degrees.
Dominguez once again asked Baynum if the college could get by without the fee.
“Right now the programs are not paying for themselves? Are we losing money?” she asked.
Baynum assured her the programs were losing money, as expected.
Hogue said he would rather adopt the fee now and ensure that the courses would be offered.
He said he would hate for students to enroll in the programs now and later have the programs cut because of funding.
“If we’re going to have the programs, we’re going to have to do this (fee),” he said.
Lohse said taxpayers showed their support for the health science program by agreeing to fund the 1 cent tax rate increase last year so students should also bear some of the burden.
“If taxpayers are willing to throw in $100,000, then students should to,” he said.
Morón said he felt the fee would hurt those students who could least afford to pay for college.
“I think it will put a hardship on the students and I am not in favor of it,” he said.
Trustee Louise Hall suggested the college seek out contributions from the community to offset the costs of the program.
Instead of writing a check for the scholarship program, residents and businesses can write checks to the health science program instead, she said.