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Carroll Community students could see 4 percent tuition increase next year

Carroll Community College students will likely see a $5-per-credit-hour tuition increase for in-county residents if the requested Fiscal Year 2015 operating budget is approved.

A 4 percent increase in tuition rates for credit students would take the in-county rate from $113 per credit hour this fiscal year to $118 in FY15. Out-of-county tuition would go from $165 per credit hour to $172, and out-of-state tuition would go from $231 per-credit-hour to $241.

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Three major factors drive tuition dollars: state funding, county funding and enrollment estimates, according to Executive Vice President of Administration Alan Schuman.

"It is really a balancing act that we do each year," he said.

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Each year, the college estimates what it expects to get from the county and state, estimates ways to reduce its budget and looks at raising the tuition rate to fill the gap between the government funds and the money it needs to meet the college's priorities.

"Tuition dollars is one variable we have direct control over," he said.

For FY15, the college is expecting to get 3 percent more from the county and state than it did in Fiscal Year 2014, but those figures won't be confirmed until sometime in spring 2014, Schuman said.

"If we're short on the state and county side, we would have to come back and look at expenditure assumptions and look at additional places to make adjustments," he said. "It's extremely unlikely that we would raise tuition further, but it's a theoretical possibility."

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Expenses are also rising, especially in the health-care premium area, Schuman said.

Next school year, the college is expected to have a 1 percent decrease in enrollment from the current year's projections, going from 2,442 full-time equivalent credit students to a projected 2,437 in FY15, because the number of high school students in the county is on a decline, Schuman said.

The college is experiencing a 6 percent decrease in credit enrollment from last school year to this current year. The declining enrollment trend is being seen at community colleges across the state, Schuman said.

Non-credit course enrollment is projected to see an increase, however, from 575 in FY14 to 600 in FY15. Rates charged for non-credit programs are market driven based on what the competition pays for similar types of courses, Schuman said.

"Their rates will go up a little bit next year, but it's not necessarily going to be 4 percent," he said.

The cost impact on a full-time, in-county student would be approximately $83 per semester, while a part-time, in-county student's cost impact would be an estimated $39 per semester.

"Any tuition increase puts an increased burden on the students, and we recognize that," he said. "We feel this tuition increase is modest and needed to sustain the quality education that we offer our students."

For this current school year, the college implemented a $6-per-credit-hour tuition increase from Fiscal Year 2013. As a way to help students, the college began offering direct student loans beginning this semester, Schuman said. The college also offers a payment plan option over the course of a semester.

"One of our goals is to maintain our tuition rate at less than 50 percent of the cost of attending a University of Maryland system institution," he said. "We are able to continue to maintain that."

According to College President Faye Pappalardo, the tuition increase helps fulfill the needs of Carroll Community. The tuition increase was taken to the school's Student Government Organization for feedback.

"The proposed tuition increase will help the college to maintain our excellent quality education," wrote Pappalardo in a statement from the college. "Students have expressed their support."

The Carroll Community College Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposed $31.1 million dollar budget during the Dec. 11 meeting.

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