Howard Community College's trustees geared up for more students, more construction and more expenses by approving a $51 million budget for the next fiscal year, up from $47 million last year.
The college is seeking nearly $17 million in county funding - a 14 percent increase over the last request - and is relying on a $10-per-credit in-county tuition boost and growth in enrollment to add an additional $1.4 million in revenue.
HCC officials are also counting on nearly $8 million in state funding. State money for most community colleges is determined as a percentage of funding for the University System of Maryland.
Roger N. Caplan, chairman of the board of trustees, said enrollment has been increasing significantly for several years. That means "more fixed costs every year, although they're good fixed costs."
The full-time equivalent enrollment at the college increased 9.1 percent in fiscal 2002 and 6.5 percent in fiscal 2003.
Similar enrollment growth is being seen at two-year schools across the state, particularly among traditional college-age students. Of the high school graduates who go to a Maryland school, 62 percent attend a community college, according to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.
"As we add students, we have to add faculty," Caplan said. The budget includes funds for six new full-time faculty members and $3.6 million for part-time instructors.
Another priority, according to the board, is a 7 percent merit pay increase for faculty and staff, costing $1.3 million.
In previous years, when the county has not fully funded the school's budget requests, "typically salary increases are the first things that get trimmed out," said Guy Bunyard, a mathematics professor who serves as president of the Faculty Forum.
Pay raises in the past several years "have been barely above inflation, if that," Bunyard said. He is encouraged by what Caplan called a "strong commitment" to compensate employees for their hard work.
A 7 percent pay increase this year "wouldn't gain too much ground," Bunyard said, "but it would sure keep us on track."
Other increases in spending are fairly small, focusing on the basics of keeping the school running smoothly. The largest increase for a nonstaff expense is $349,000 for utilities. Spending increases ranging from $10,000 to $34,000 are planned for computer networks, phones, security and other maintenance issues. The library will get $10,000 more and $100,000 will be added for scholarships.
Laura Zeender, vice president of the student government association, said the students she has spoken to are comfortable with making salaries a spending priority. They are also pleased with the computers and other technology available on campus and the construction of new buildings.
Still, tuition increases - which bring per-credit costs to $100 for in-county students, $183 for out-of-county Maryland students and $228 for out-of-state students - are not going to be easy for everyone to deal with.
"It's not a good thing for a lot of students here," said Zeender, a second-year political science major from Fulton. One big appeal of a community college is the low cost, she said. "A lot of my friends are working full time" and are paying their own way through school.
The college, as always, is looking to the government for financial support.
Caplan called the proposed county contribution "a very modest request. We tried to be responsible as we could with the current economic environment."
Last year, after determining HCC's share, the state cut $514,000, leaving the college with a $7.6 million contribution. So far this year, the governor's budget includes the full 24 percent to be distributed among the community colleges based on enrollment.
The college's third main source of income is an anticipated $19 million from tuition and fees.
The college is also moving ahead with several capital projects that are covered under a separate budget.
The state approved about $1.65 million for the new Visual and Performing Arts Instructional Building, which is scheduled to break ground in the spring. It granted $380,000 to plan renovations to the Smith Theatre, $400,000 to update athletic fields and $67,000 to design a new Student Services Building.
"The government did the best ever for community colleges in terms of capital money," said HCC President Mary Ellen Duncan. Now, she said, the county needs to match the funds in order for the projects to move ahead.
Students will also contribute to the new arts building. In the new fiscal year, $3 of a student's tuition per credit hour is marked for the capital fund for the new structure. Last year, $1 per credit was set aside for that use.