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Harford Community College proposes 2% tuition increase as enrollment decline continues

As Harford Community College faces a continued decrease in enrollment, it is proposing to increase its tuition by 2% for the 2020-2021 academic year.

A draft budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, was presented to members of the HCC Board of Trustees at their meeting Tuesday evening.

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“We want to keep tuition as affordable as we can,” Brenda Morrison, vice president for external relations and communications, said. “We still feel the cost of our tuition is affordable.”

The Fiscal Year 2021 proposed operating budget is $52.2 million, a 1.7% increase or slightly more than $915,000, from the FY2020 approved budget of $51.3 million.

Trustees will vote on the budget proposal in January, when it will be forwarded to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. He will present the proposed county budget by April 1 to the Harford County Council, which must approve it by June 15.

According to the FY2021 proposed budget, tuition will increase by $2.66 per credit hour, from $132.87 to $135.53.

Enrollment has declined 25 percent since FY2011, according to Morrison.

Enrollment peaked in FY2011 at almost 147,000 credit hours, is projected to dip to 106,000 credit hours this fiscal year and is estimated to decrease by another 2% in FY2021 to 104,440 credit hours, Morrison said.

HCC officials expect to receive an approximately $400,000 increase in funding from Harford County and another $121,000 from the state.

Typically, tuition revenue covers a third of the cost of the operating budget, the county funds one third and the state the remaining one third, Morrison said.

In the next fiscal year, however, college officials are budgeting for less from the state, because of the demands for state education funding recommended by the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education, commonly referred to as the Kirwan Commission.

“With Kirwan, there will be so much pressure for state money, it will take money away from everybody, including community college,” Morrison said.

The proposed budget includes a $1 million “investment” in HCC employees, which includes a 2% raise, coverage of a 7% increase in the cost of health care and implementation of the third phase of a compensation study, Morrison said.

One of Harford Community College’s guiding principles is investing in employees, she said.

“We are a very heavy human resources organization, and the success of our students depends on the quality of our faculty and support staff,” Morrison said. “We recognize and value the need to keep tuition affordable, and we recognize the importance of compensating our employees.”

Were employees not to receive raises, HCC risks them going elsewhere, especially at a time when unemployment is at historically low levels, she said.

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School leaders also want to make sure they focus on students, and despite declining enrollment, the budget includes hiring additional faculty members in growing programs to meet student demand — cyber security and biology, Morrison said.

“We recognize the areas of growth of the college and we want to ensure our students have the opportunity to be successful at a time that works for them and make sure classes are available to them,” she said.

Capital budget

The proposed capital project budget for FY21 is $29.4 million. The largest portion of the budget, almost $27.4 million, is earmarked for the renovation and expansion of the Chesapeake Center.

Other capital projects include roof replacements ($500,000), expansion of HCC at Edgewood ($250,000), computer equipment and technology ($1 million) and parking improvements ($289,000).

Future projects in the HCC Capital Improvement Program includes renovation of the library primarily funded in FY2023; renovation of the student center, primarily funded in FY2024; and the MET (Math, Engineering and Technology) building, with $2 million in funding in FY2024, $20 million in FY2025 and $1.5 million in FY2026.

Capital projects are funded 47 percent by the county and 53 percent by the state, Morrison said.

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