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.
DECISION FOLLOWS STATE ELIMINATING PCC FUNDING
By ANDREW PAXTON
Pima Community College’s governing board voted to increase tuition days after the state eliminated funding to the college.
Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature delivered the final blow to state funding for PCC with the release of the 2016 state budget on March 7.
The budget eliminates the final state allocation to PCC, which totaled $7.1 million in 2014. As recently as 2008, the state provided about 15 percent of the college’s budget, although that number dwindled to less than 5 percent.
“I am extremely disappointed to report to you that the new budget eliminates all state funding for Pima Community College … reducing our three primary revenue streams to two with the stroke of a pen,” PCC chancellor Lee Lambert wrote in an email.
“These resources are essential as we train students so they can propel our region’s economic development,” Lambert said.
Pima’s governing board voted to raise tuition by $5 per credit hour on March 11, making in-state tuition $75.50 per unit starting in Fall 2015. Most PCC classes are three or four units.
The raise was foreshadowed days earlier when Lambert talked about “hard decisions” following the release of the state budget.
“The college has a history of keeping tuition low, as we recognize many of our students are of modest means,” Lambert said.
“We must balance the need to keep tuition increases reasonable with the need for revenue to continue to provide high-quality programs and services that deliver value to students and the community.”
The college also increased the semester processing fee from $10 to $15.
Pima eliminated the $15 graduation application fee and a $2 fee for student identification cards.
Lambert said administrators have been meeting with student government leaders “to share information and gain their insights,” regarding tuition and fee increases.
The college also considered raises of $10 and $15 per credit hour, which student leaders opposed.
Pima has been anticipating cuts to its state funding and has been planning for possible shortfalls.
“The budget planning process puts us in a strong position as we determine how proposed cuts could impact our operations and our students,” Lambert said.
Pima has prepared different action plans for budget reductions ranging from $5-$15 million.
“However, the proposed cuts would compromise our ability to provide affordable and modern training opportunities for Arizona’s future workforce,” Lambert said.
State universities are also taking about $99 million in cuts.
“This is a values-based budget that reflects key priorities for the state of Arizona,” Ducey said in a statement shortly after the budget plan was released.
Lambert pledged “to minimize the damage to the college wrought by the state’s decision.”
“I have been heartened by the outpouring of support for PCC from students and all corners of the community as the state’s budget direction became clear,” he said.
“Our customers and constituents understand that PCC’s continued delivery of quality education is crucial if students are to achieve their personal vision of the American Dream, and that our students form the backbone of a stable, healthy, economically vibrant Tucson.”
Lambert will host several information meetings to give more details about how the budget cuts will impact the college.
“The meetings are meant to convey the latest information and to answer questions and concerns,” Lambert said.
“I remain resolute in my belief that by working together and having open discussions, we can meet our challenges and continue to deliver high-quality services.”
PCC budget finance meeting dates and locations:
March 9, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Downtown Campus, Amethyst Room
March 10, 4-5 p.m., Desert Vista Campus, Ocotillo Room
March 24, 3:30-4:30 p.m., 29th Street Coalition Center, Aurora Room
March 25, 3:30-4:30 p.m., West Campus, JG05
April 2, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Northwest Campus, A207
April 6, 3:30- 4:30 p.m., Community Campus, A109/112
April 7, 10-11 a.m., Maintenance & Security Conference Room MS 105
By ANDREW PAXTON
Pima Community College students will pay more for classes next semester, following the college’s governing board approval of a tuition increase.
The board members heard from administrators, students and members of the community before voting 4-1 to raise tuition by $5 per credit hour for in-state students during its March 12 meeting.
The increase is larger than in most recent years, when tuition was increased by $2 or $3. However, the college did raise tuition by $5 in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
The cost of one credit hour for in-state residents will now be $76, including student services and technology fees.
PCC currently has the third-lowest rates in the state, which college officials expect will remain unchanged following tuition increases at other institutions.
Tuition for non-residents will remain unchanged, due in part because Pima eliminated a discount for part-time non-resident students in 2013. Officials said they didn’t want to impose another increase so soon after eliminating the discount.
The technology and student services fees that all students pay will remain unchanged as well. But fees for certain high-cost classes, such as nursing and aviation, will increase.
During the meeting, Pima’s finance chief, David Bea, detailed budget shortfalls and explained to the board and audience members why the increase is needed.
According to Bea, the need arose mostly from cutbacks in state funding, an opinion that was echoed by Chancellor Lee Lambert.
“Nobody wants to raise tuition,” Lambert said. “The state has walked away from their commitment to higher education, and especially to community colleges.”
The state of Arizona once provided more than 15 percent of Pima’s budget, but in recent years that number has dropped to around 5 percent.
To make up for the shortfall, college officials said they have no choice but to increase tuition as part of their strategy to meet the monetary needs of the institution.
Before the board meeting, PCC officials met with representatives from student government and provided details regarding the proposed increase and how the funds would be used.
“It is a great opportunity for students to communicate with those who have authority in decision making at the college,” said Alec Moreno, president of student government at West Campus.
Student representatives brought up concerns such as textbook usage, instructors not always fully utilizing available technology and funding for Student Life.
“I think we were taken seriously and given their full attention,” Moreno said.
Lambert said he wants to start bringing more focus to the individual campuses instead of everything being centered at the college’s district office.
“On the campuses is where the real work is being done,” he said. “That’s where our students are.”
According to Bea, the $5 increase will help finance several improvements to the college.
The college will spend $500,000 to enhance student services across each of the PCC’s many campuses and education centers.
Pima will also invest $500,000 to modernize four classrooms and train employees to use the new equipment.
Another $200,000 will go to hiring four additional faculty for Developmental Education.
Bea also discussed other additional priorities for PCC, including program enhancement, new initiatives and recruitment.
The college also plans to invest more in veteran student support, records management and complaints resolution.
Those areas have all come under fire recently, with the veteran’s program being sanctioned for faulty record keeping and faculty and students expressing a lack of an effective system for registering complaints.
Aaron Dinus, a member of Downtown Campus student government, told the board that students would approve of the tuition increase as long as the money was being used properly.
Although many students were in attendance at the board meeting, none of them spoke during public comments.
The only person to speak against the increase in tuition was Alfonso Valenzuela, who is a member of C-FAIRR, a community watchdog group that has been critical of the college and the governing board.
“Imagine what students are thinking when deciding about attending Pima, when there is a strong possibility they will not be able to afford tuition or receive financial aid,” he said.
Board member Scott Stewart supported the increase and said he would propose a $10 rise to tuition, but knew the board “wouldn’t have the stomach for it.”
Board member Marty Cortez approved of the increase as well, although she lamented the rising costs in education. She suggested the college attempt to freeze tuition for two years so students would know exactly how much they would be paying when they start at PCC.
Sylvia Lee, the newest member of the board, voted against raising tuition in 2013, but supported the measure this year because she feels the college is “back on the right path.”
The only member to vote against the measure was board chair David Longoria, who did not give a reason for his disapproval.
According to a study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialist Inc., for every dollar students invest in Pima, they receive a cumulative $5.30 in higher future income over the course of their working careers.
The study also said the accumulated credits achieved by former PCC students over the past three decades translated to $887.3 million in added regional income in 2009-10 due to the higher earnings of students and increased productivity of businesses.
By ANDREW PAXTON
Pima Community College students will pay more for classes next semester, after the college’s governing board voted to increase tuition during its March 12 meeting.
The board members heard from administrators, students and community members before voting 4-1 to raise tuition by $5 per credit hour for in-state students.
David Bea, PCC’s head of finances, detailed budget shortfalls and explained why the increases were required.
According to Bea, the need to increase tuition mostly arises from a lack of state funding, an opinion that was echoed by Chancellor Lee Lambert.
“Nobody wants to raise tuition,” Lambert said. “The state has walked away from its commitment to higher education, and especially to community colleges.”
Student government representative Aaron Dinius told the board they would support a tuition increase as long as the money was being used to help students.
Although many students were in the audience, none addressed the board during public comment.
Board chair David Longoria voted against the increase. He did not say why he opposed the higher tuition rate.
By ANDREW PAXTON
The board decided, by a 3-2 vote, to raise in-state tuition by $2 per unit and increase both student service and technology fees by 50 cents.
PCC will also eliminate the current out-of-state tuition discount available to nonresidents taking less than seven units per semester.
Starting in the fall, nonresident students taking fewer than seven credits per term will have to pay $319 per unit, instead of the $106 per unit rate they are currently paying.
“While enrollment will likely drop somewhat as a result of this change, the increase is expected to generate out-of-state additional revenue net of the expected enrollment decline,” Interim Chancellor Suzanne Miles said in her recommendation to the board.
However, Miles said she does not anticipate enrollment numbers would drop significantly, citing a similar change made recently by the Maricopa County Community College District.
Miles suggested three options for the board to consider.
The second proposal would have raised tuition rates by $3 per unit and increased student service and technology fees by 50 cents, but would not have eliminated the nonresident discount.
The final proposal would have raised tuition by $4 per unit and increased student service fees by 50 cents. Technology fees and the nonresident discount would not have been affected.
Board members also had the option to pick and chose elements from all three proposals and create a fourth rate increase suggestion.
Miles listed contractual obligations, facility maintenance, increases in employee health care and higher utility costs as reasons for the need to increase tuition rates.
Each $1 increase to in-state tuition represents approximately $600,000 in total revenue, according to figures released by the school.
The tuition rate increase adopted by the board would generate approximately $1.8 million, according to David Bea, the college’s finance administrator.
Pima currently has the third-lowest tuition for community colleges in Arizona. Even after the $2 per unit increase, PCC is projected to remain third-cheapest, according to Bea.
Arizona’s three public universities are also considering tuition increases. The University of Arizona and Arizona State University are seeking 3 percent tuition hikes, and Northern Arizona University is contemplating a 5 percent jump.
The Arizona Board of Regents is expected to set tuition and fees for the three universities in early April.