Three Rivers board approves tuition increase | News
POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - The Board of Trustees at Three Rivers College approved a tuition increase in a meeting on Thursday, April 12.
According to Three Rivers, the vote was 4-2 in favor of the increase, which will take effect this summer.
Recently-elected trustee Ben Ressel made a motion for the board to select a middle-of-the-road increase plan, contingent on no programs or personnel being cut for budgetary reasons during the upcoming fiscal year. The motion was seconded by trustee Wilbur Thornton.
Beginning with the summer 2012 academic sessions, Three Rivers says tuition will go up $3 per credit hour for in-district and out of district students, it will increase $6 per credit hour for out-of-state students. In-district students are generally defined as those with permanent addresses in Ripley, Butler, Carter and Wayne Counties. Three Rivers says common fees will also increase by $1 per credit hour.
With the new increases, per-credit-hour tuition will cost $75 for in-district students; $120 for out-of-district and $150 for out-of-state. However, about 66 percent of full-time Three Rivers students receive some form of financial assistance, which the college says will still cover these costs. Also, The Missouri A+ program, for those students who qualify, will still cover all tuition and common fees. At these prices, Three Rivers says they remain one of the most affordable colleges in Missouri.
“None of us like those increased costs, and our constituents don’t like those rates to go up either,” said board chair Randy Winston. “But we have numerous A+ schools in our district, and scholarships that the college provides for students from local towns like Van Buren, Naylor, and Twin Rivers. We offer an opportunity called the Raider Incentive: if those students get in the A+ or the Raider scholarship program for three years, maintain 95 percent attendance, do some tutoring and a little bit of community service, they get free tuition for two years. That’s the best deal you’ll find anywhere. With that said, the tuition issue shouldn’t even be an issue with our local constituents; it really concerns our out-of-district students.”
The Student Success office at Three Rivers reported that 474 students who successfully completed the A+ program in high school have attended Three Rivers this year. This number included both in-district and out-of-district students.
“Any student who attended an A+ school in Missouri is eligible to use the A+ benefits at any community college in the state,” said Marcia Fields, interim Chief Student Success Officer for Three Rivers.
Fields said that 73 in-district students who currently attend Three Rivers successfully completed the Raider Incentive program in high school.
“Our continually increasing enrollment requires more classes and more instructors to teach them," she said. "We’re having to do more with less, and the college is limited in the ways it can generate revenue to make up for state budget shortfalls.”
According to Three Rivers, administrators are forecasting an increase in instructional costs of $100,000 to hire more part-time instructors. Other cost increases forecasted for the 2013 fiscal year include:
- Comparative Salary and Cost of Living adjustments - $177,000
- Health insurance increase (10 percent) - $60,000
- Utilities (10 percent increase) - $46,000
- Athletic insurance premium increase - $35,000
Together, Three Rivers says cost increases total $418,000 that must be covered in the next budget year, which begins in July.
“Whatever we agree on today, I just want to make sure that we’re not going to cut any staff and we’re not going to cut any programs,” said Ressel, who is currently serving as board Treasurer. “If we meet in the middle and the projected revenue from a tuition increase still leaves us short of our projected costs, and if we do intend to cut something, I want to know where those cuts will be, or if we’re going to pull from reserves.”
“In the budgeting process, we could absorb $80,000 or so, but there’s another side to this,” Stephenson said. “We don’t want to price ourselves out of the market. It’s sort of a fine line and a balancing act.”
“Why can we not take $418,000 out of our reserves and put it in as a line item in our budget for this coming year?” asked trustee Phil Davis who, along with Darren Garrison, participated in the meeting via conference call. “We could take care of this so that we wouldn’t have any layoffs, we wouldn’t be raising any tuition right now, and it solves the whole problem.”
Three Rivers CFO Charlotte Eubank reported that the reserve balance stands at approximately $4.5 million.
“We’ve got a lot of projects going on,” answered Winston. “A new entrance, and a lot of buildings that need renovation. Also, emergency situations can come up and those balances are necessary.”
Stephenson has stated in the past that his goal was to build the college “rainy day” contingency fund to $4.5 million in the event that state funding decreased drastically, or stopped altogether. In such an event, the college reserves would be used to keep the institution operating for a few months, until alternate funding could hopefully be provided.
“It seems like we have mixed feelings about what reserves are intended for,” commented Ressel.
“No one wants to cut teachers and instructors,” said trustee Randy Grassham, “but people in our communities see headlines in the newspaper about how we have healthy reserves and all these donations and contributions. Everyone has told me, can’t you use some of that until the economy gets better? I don’t want to penalize the students, we’ve just got a lot of things going on right now.”
“Most grants are earmarked for particular things, and the public needs to realize that,” added Winston. “Our administration has done a great job of securing funds for us, but those funds come with strings attached and they’re restricted in terms of how they can be used.”
“Is it true we haven’t raised tuition in three years?” pointed out Ressel. “How many businesses do you know of that their costs haven’t gone up in three years? It’s the nature of the beast.”
Stephenson said this was the case until last year, in reference to the agreement that several Missouri higher education institutions, including Three Rivers, entered into with Gov. Jay Nixon in 2009. The agreement provided that participating colleges and universities would hold tuition steady so long as state funding cuts did not exceed 5 percent of their state funding. Last year, cuts to Three Rivers’ funding exceeded 7 percent of its allocation, and tuition increased.
“Most of our sister institutions are increasing tuition by four or five dollars a credit hour this year,” added Stephenson. “Mineral Area College in Park Hills just raised tuition $5 in district, $7 dollars out of district and $12 out of state.”
For the approximately 48 percent of students who qualify for the maximum federal Pell Grant payment, about $1,600 would be left after new tuition costs for in-district students, $1,000 for out-of-district, and $700 for out-of-state students.
For more information on paying for a college education and available financial aid at Three Rivers, you can visit trcc.edu.
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