Will tuition increase next year? Possibly, but the decision won’t be known until the next board meeting. At the last UCC board meeting a possible $3 tuition increase was discussed. The final decision will likely be decided at the next board meeting March 13 at 4:30 pm.in the Health, Nursing and Science Center (HNSC) room 100. The board meeting is a public meeting, and anyone is welcome. If anyone would like to approach the board, they can sign up on a sheet of paper before the meeting. At the next board meeting, tuition will be listed as an action item, meaning a decision will be made.
The tuition discussion at the February board meeting was very brief, only running about fifteen minutes, as the possible increase was given its “first reading” to the board as an “information item.” A first reading is the first time that the board has spoken about a topic. The board waits till the meeting to discuss topics that need to be presented, otherwise the conversation will be posted as a public forum. Information items can only be discussed with no vote. When a second reading of the tuition increase suggestion is made at the March 13 meeting, the proposal would be an action item and can be voted on.
The tuition increase potential is related to a larger UCC budget discussion. Chief Financial Officer Natalya Brown presented the board with financial reports that show tuition is $250,000 below what the budget had forecast. This projected deficit has contributed to the $3 per credit tuition increase suggestion. The budget was built on enrollment increase projections of about 2% and on projections that were difficult to make on instructional per credit fees – UCC didn’t have any historical projection of what its institutional fee revenue would be, according to Brown, so it was hard to project this info for future budgets because some fees were new.
Enrollment wise, UCC is not seeing a decline, but the way that the institution is calculating enrollment is difficult for the budget because UCC is sometimes counting students for enrollment who are not paying tuition, just fees. There are more variables than were anticipated, says Brown.
UCC will also be coming in a little short with their state funding allocation. UCC lost almost $96,000 in funds normally allocated to UCC by the state. The amount UCC will receive in property taxes will likely even this out, according to Brown, and UCC estimates some savings from materials and services and financial aid department to help overcome this shortfall.
The property tax revenue can potentially increase the state allocation to UCC. In some instances, where the college’s local property taxes decrease compared to other community colleges, it changes how the state allocation behaves. In the majority of the cases for Oregon’s community colleges, there were property tax increases in their service areas. Other districts had less of an increase, and this usually creates an adjustment.
Since Douglas County property taxes rose at a higher rate than some other districts, this is why UCC and some other colleges would also increase tuition. This is just an estimate.
UCC’s enterprise fund also has a negative balance for the first time, Brown said. The enterprise funds are money from the UCC bookstore, UCC cafeteria mainly and some funds from special events and wine event revenue. “The cafeteria is another complex decision. We have had a history of the cafeteria having problems with vendors, so we went back to providing the service in house. Last year they ended with a negative $8000. The cost in the negative is expected to be higher this year,” says Brown.
Bookstore revenues have dropped about $100,000 in the last period. The bookstore used to absorb some of the negative balance of the catering and cafeteria, but it now can no longer cover the catering and cafeteria deficits as students are buying texts online or renting books at a lower cost. UCC’s catering service has a deficit of a little over $200,000, and the cafeteria’s negative is about $8,000. “The college will have to figure out a solution for this because the college cannot sustain this or maintain this overall within the general fund,” says Brown.
The bookstore has been trying to find the best prices to lower students’ text costs, and so students are paying less into the bookstore’s revenue. The operation of the bookstore is also changing with open educational funds as instructors and the bookstore staff have also been working on providing free or reduced cost open education resources and more affordable textbook options such as renting.
In order to handle the cafeteria revenue shortage, one board member suggested bringing in food trucks. Whether or not they were serious was unclear.
It’s important to remember that the $3 tuition increase is only an estimate. “Next month we will consider tuition,” says Steve Loosley. Brown explained “Currently we are in the process of processing all of the budget requests. Katie Workman will compile all of the data and determine where we are out with balances compared to the revenue side of the house. Discussions will then happen if we compile all of the information and we don’t balance.”
The UCC budget will be in a state of flux until the state decides how much it will fund Oregon’s community colleges as a group. Several totals have been considered. “Generally, the majority of the community colleges are considering the $590 million for the state budget, but that in no way means that will for sure happen. The board proposed this number, but there are many numbers that are floating around [for Oregon community college funding] including the governor’s budget of $543 million. Even with $519 million we are looking at cuts of more than $400,000 in year one and more than $600,000 in year two, and that is with the projected tuition increases,” Brown said.