Harford Community College's proposed operating budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year includes a $12 per-credit-hour tuition increase, as college officials work to close what they say is a structural deficit and to offset flat state and county funding.
The proposed $47.8 million operating budget was given to the members of the HCC Board of Trustees at their most recent monthly meeting on Dec. 10.
The proposed budget includes an increase of about $800,000 higher, or 2 percent compared to this year's spending level of $47 million, but the tuition increase amounts to a 7.6 percent increase for county residents who attend HCC.
The $12 increase would raise the tuition per credit hour for Harford County residents, from $92 to $104, with similar increases for out-of-county and out-of-state students to $191 and $278 per credit hour, respectively.
Student fees are projected to remain the same at 17.435 percent of the tuition rate.
Rick Johnson, vice president for finance and operations, said "less than 2 percent" of HCC students live outside of Harford County.
If approved, the tuition increase will be the fourth tuition increase since 2010; the Board of Trustees approved increases in $5 increments for a $15 increase from 2010 and 2012.
An increase to $104 for in-county students would mean an overall increase of $27, or 35 percent, since 2007 when tuition was $77.
At the same time, enrollment spiked between the 2009 and 2011 fiscal years. The increase is attributed to the recession, as more people sought retraining or more course work in 2009 and 2010, according to the budget narrative.
The number of paid credit hours increased 21.8 percent, from 110,000 in FY09 to 134,000 in FY11; the enrollment began leveling after FY11, however, with students taking 136,000 credit hours in FY13.
The number of credit hours dropped by 3.5 percent for the current fall semester, according to the narrative – 7,039 students are enrolled for the current semester.
Johnson explained that the tuition increases have been necessary because of the economy, and "flat" state and county funding that has resulted in annual deficits in the college operating budget.
College officials project $19.7 million in revenue will be raised through tuition and fees in FY15, or 43.1 percent of projected revenues of $45.6 million.
It will be the largest portion of the revenue pie – officials expect $14.9 million will come from the county government, $10.3 million from the state and $680,764 from miscellaneous sources, according to budget documents provided by the college.
"We have to offset the fact that those revenue streams are flat with increased tuition," Johnson explained.
The projected revenues are $2.1 million less than the projected expenditures of $47.8 million for FY15, with increases being driven by increased health care costs, increased facility operating expenses as the college's Towson Building and Nursing and Allied Health building, called Darlington Hall, are expected to be open by the Fall 2014 semester.
College officials are also planning a 2 percent pay increase for full and part-time employees and to add three full-time positions.
Those positions include a Nursing and Allied Health faculty position, a maintenance technician for the Towson Building and Darlington Hall and an application developer for Computer and Technology Services.
Johnson stressed the budget numbers presented for December are subject to change, based on the county and state funding picture. The new budget itself won't take effect until next July.
"We will adjust our numbers once again in June if the county number is different than what we projected," he said.