By EDDIE CELAYA
The Pima Community College Board of Governors will consider raising in-state tuition and cutting employee benefits at its next meeting.
The March 8 meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the Community Board Room (Building C) at the District Office complex, 4095 E. Broadway Blvd.
The governing board might decide to increase tuition by $7 per credit hour, the college’s largest increase ever.
College officials have said budget shortfalls may force a tuition increase. They’ve listed factors such as state funding cutbacks and dwindling enrollment.
David Bea, PCC vice chancellor for finance, presented three budget scenarios to the Board of Governors last December. One scenario included a $7 per-credit-hour increase in tuition. The two other scenarios both proposed a $3 increase.
College spokeswoman Libby Howell said the proposals are just that: proposals. “It could be a $7 increase, yes,” she said. “It could just as easily stay the same or fall somewhere in between.”
In a typical year, the governing board schedules a study session devoted solely to tuition a month before its public vote, Howell said.
That didn’t happen this year.
“There was no study session on just tuition,” she said. “There was a budget session, and it was during that time they discussed and included tuition rates for the March meeting.”
Board chairman Mark Hanna said he is “concerned we’re voting on a tuition increase before we actually have taken a look at what we’re going to do to reduce costs.”
Hanna has voted against tuition increases the last two years.
“It’s the most important issue I have to deal with each year, because I know how it affects our students,” he said.
The governing board voted last March to decrease international tuition from $5,280 to $4,500 for a full schedule of classes, a drop of nearly 15 percent.
Hanna said the board’s 2016 vote doesn’t cheat in-state students by giving big breaks to international students. He argued it simply levels the playing field for all non-residential students.
“We are treating everybody who is not a resident of Arizona or Pima County the same,” he said.
The governing board will also be asked to approve contracts for employee benefits.
The board typically takes into account information from both employee groups and the administration when deciding the best course for benefit packages, according to Howell.
“Much like with tuition, the board can either vote to increase or decrease the cost and type of benefits packages,” she said. “It’s all related to the budget.”
Hanna, citing a presentation given by Bea, said the cost of employee benefits is high.
“Obviously, health insurance is the highest percentage of that,” he said.
The cost must ultimately be shared, Hanna said.
“Then we would make a decision based on how to adjust the cost to the “how much the college shares versus how much employees share,” he said.