Harford Community College proposes 3 percent tuition increase as $50.8 million budget for 2020 is introduced

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Harford Community College students have experienced a tuition increase each year for the past decade and it does not appear that trend will change.

HCC officials this week recommended a 3 percent tuition increase in the proposed $50.8 million operating budget for fiscal 2020. The proposed operating budget and a $3.6 million capital budget were presented to the Board of Trustees Tuesday evening.

The figures could change before trustees vote to adopt the budgets in June. Final revenue figures from the county and state will not be available until the spring when the Maryland General Assembly and Harford County Council adopt their respective budgets.

“We’ve done our best to make educated assumptions in this process,” said Brenda Morrison, chief of staff and vice president of external relations and communications.

Officials project $20.8 million in revenue from tuition and fees, which would make up the largest portion — 41 percent — of revenues, followed by Harford County with $17.1 million, or 33.7 percent. The state is expected to provide $12.01 million, or 23.6 percent of revenues, and the final 1.7 percent covered by “other” sources, according to the budget presentation.

Leaders of HCC and other community colleges in Maryland have been advocating for a number of years for a return to the so-called “Cade formula,” in which state, local government and tuition each cover about one third of community college revenues so students do not bear the largest share.

State funding for HCC continues to lag, although Morrison noted it has increased under Gov. Larry Hogan, and officials project a 1 percent increase in state revenues next year.

County Executive Barry Glassman has also increased its share in recent years; a 2 percent increase in local funding is expected.

Enrollment in for-credit courses is projected to decrease by 2 percent next year, on top of a 5 percent decrease in enrollment for the fall semester this year, according to Morrison. Enrollment in non-credit, or continuing education, courses is expected to increase by 3.8 percent next year, though, Morrison said.

Tuition increase breakdown

Enrollment declines have been a major factor in HCC’s annual tuition increases.

The proposed tuition increase translates to $3.87 more per credit hour. Tuition for students who live in Harford County goes to $132.87 per credit hour. It’s $223.39 for those who live outside Harford but in Maryland and $313.91 for out-of-state students.

For the average student taking nine credit hours “it’s a difference of just under $35 [more] a semester; if you’re taking 12 hours, $46,” Morrison said.

A student who takes 24 credits for the year would spend about $3,800, Morrison said.

HCC President Dianna Phillips and her aides are working to decrease spending, as well. Morrison said they have found $518,000 in cuts in this year’s budget.

Morrison said next year’s draft budget is slightly less than 1 percent higher than the $50.42 million budget adopted for fiscal 2019.

The budget proposal calls for a 2 percent salary increase for employees and projects a 16 percent increase in health insurance costs. Morrison said HCC covers 85 percent of health care costs for employees and their families.

The budget includes funding for a handful of new instructor and administrator positions and allocates $100,000 for an Innovation Fund within the president’s office. The innovation fund would support employees who pitch an idea to the administration.

“I think this is an exiting opportunity to encourage creativity throughout the campus,” Morrison said.

The new positions include a biology faculty member, financial aid specialist, director of admissions, program coordinators for engineering, cybersecurity/computing technology and upgrading the current director of institutional research to an associate vice president for planning and analytics.

Capital budget

Some key parts of the capital budget are $700,000 to furnish and equip the renovated Fallston Hall — construction is scheduled to start in January and last for 10 months; $1.1 million for technology maintenance and upgrades; more than $283,000 for maintenance such as parking lot resurfacing, pedestrian improvements and replacing electric panels and fire alarms in buildings, said Katie Callan, senior associate vice president for administration, operations and project management.

The capital budget also funds $2.1 million for design in the planned $31.4 million renovation and expansion of the Chesapeake Center. The plans include an additional 6,000 square feet for meeting space, enhancements to the Chesapeake Theater and Dining Services facilities, as well as incorporating enrollment services into the building, according to the budget presentation.

Another major project in the six-year-capital improvement plan is the $7.6 million renovation of the campus library, starting in 2021. The library has already undergone some renovations with the shift in 2017 of the president’s office from Chesapeake Center to the library.

A section of the library was renovated as an office suite for the president and her top aides.

“We envision this space will become the heartbeat of the campus,” Callan said of the proposed large-scale library renovation.

Phillips, who became president in August 2016, said such projects, ranging from the major renovations to deferred maintenance such as pedestrian safety improvements, are part of a 10-year facilities master plan.

Trustee James McCauley asked how productions will be affected while the Chesapeake Theater is being renovated. Phillips listed several other places where they can be held, such as the William H. Amoss Performing Arts Center across Thomas Run Road at Harford Technical High School, a black box theater in Joppa Hall and a theater in Havre de Grace Hall.

Board chair Richard Norling also suggested the APG Federal Credit Union Arena if crowds are large enough.

“All of the work that we’re doing here, with these capital projects, is in line with everything in that was in the facilities master plan that we came up with as an entire campus,” Phillips said.

The proposed budget will come back to the trustees in January, when they will vote on it, creating a formal request for the county and state.

It will be readjusted in the spring after the state and county budgets are finalized and put forward for adoption in June. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

“It’s a long process, but we need to be involved early and late,” Norling said.

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