Students at Harford Community College will see yet another increase in their costs starting this fall, after the HCC Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to approve a 2.6 percent increase in consolidated fees.
The increase will bring the consolidated fees – everything that isn't tuition such as computer, lab and printing fees for example – for in-county students to 20 percent of their tuition, up from 17.6 percent.
HCC President Dennis Golladay recommended the increase. He said the additional money will be allocated to the general operating fund starting in FY2015.
"I see it as a necessary addition to the revenue to the 2015 budget due to a decline in enrollment," Golladay said during the college board's monthly meeting.
HCC reported a 3 percent decrease in enrollment in FY2014. Expenditures such as employees health insurance, utilities, supplies and services, including snow removal, however, continue to increase, Golladay said.
All the board members except John Haggerty voted to approve the rate increase.
Golladay said in the preliminary 2015 operating budget, which was approved in January, he had estimated flat credit enrollment, flat non-credit revenue and a 5 percent increase in health care expenses.
He said he since revised some of those assumptions, estimating a 3 percent decrease in credit enrollment, a non-credit revenue decrease of approximately 6.5 percent and an additional 5 percent increase in health care expenses.
The increase in the consolidated fee comes on the heels of the board recently voting to increase the tuition rate by $12 a credit hour, also set to start during the fall 2014 semester.
The result of the increase in the consolidated fee results in an in-county rate of $104 per credit hour plus $20.80 per credit hour for the consolidated fee, a total cost to in-county students of $124.80.
The $350,000 in additional revenue anticipated from increasing the consolidated fee will be allocated to the general operating fund, which is comprised of five funds: the athletics fund, student activities fund, general fund, parking improvement fund and the computer and technology fund.
Although he agreed the decline in enrollment at HCC was forecast, Haggerty questioned if the college is making enough effort to retain students who are already attending, as opposed to possibly driving more away by raising tuition rates and fees.
Golladay said community colleges across the nation are experiencing a decline in enrollment and that HCC is actively working to push its retention efforts.
One of Golliday's aides said the college spearheaded a massive telephone retention effort before the current semester began. She said about 2,220 students were not registered for classes two weeks before the semester began.
A team of college officials called about 1,896 students and 739 of those students returned for the spring 2014 semester, she added.
Board member Bryan E. Kelly said the college is starting to see a paradigm shift and "tuition is a bigger piece of the pie." He said students don't have the funds to afford increases in tuition and the college should begin to look toward other funding sources.
"We will probably be back there again," Kelly said. "I think we will probably struggle with the deficit and I think we will be giving more bad news."
The overall goal of the college is to be fiscally responsible, Golladay replied. He said he does not believe enrollment will continue to decline to lows the college saw in previous years, during the recession.
Golladay said the goal of the college is to have a level tuition the students can afford, to maintain the quality of the programs and learning opportunities and to make sure faculty and staff and properly compensated.
"There's no point in having the lowest price point in tuition with poor quality," the HCC president added.