By: Brandon Castro
Effective Aug. 2013, the Mercer County Community College Board of Trustees has approved a $4.00 per credit increase in student tuition ($1 of which is a technology fee), as well as a $5.00 per credit increase for out of county students, in order to offset reduced income due to low enrollment and reduced state-level funding.
The proposed increase was approved unanimously by the MCCC Board of Trustees at a meeting on Feb. 21. This follows a previous raise in tuition made in 2012 which saw a difference in $5.00 dollars per credit, bumping cost per credit from $133.00 to $138.00. The upcoming August increase would see tuition raised to $142.00 per credit. This would mark a $9.00 per credit increase over the past 2 years, upping the cost of a 15 credit semester by $135.00.
Public meetings were held on Feb. 18 on the West Windsor Campus and Feb. 19 on the James Kerney Campus, during which students and attendees were encouraged to ask President Donohue questions and voice their opinions related to the tuition increase.
Questions at the West Windsor meeting focused largely on low student enrollment, odds of tuition expanding next academic year and the current allocation of college budget.
President Donohue provided statistics driving the decision to increase tuition and further elaborated in an interview with the VOICE: “The amount lost in state funding is about $2,000,000 from what the high was and that hasn’t changed in the past couple years. That was a big drop all at once about 3 years ago… This year’s enrollment is about $1,000,000 below what we projected it would be this year.” This would mark a $3,000,000 decrease in budget for the school.
“I think it’s bogus” said Abigail Schwendeman, a first year Liberal Arts major at Mercer. “I’m already paying a lot for my books and the gas to get back and forth. The extra money is a lot for students paying their own tuition”
When contacted about how the raise in tuition might affect students, Dr. Diane Campbell, Executive Dean of Students said that students paying their own tuition without financial aid will be most affected: “For students that are paying their own tuition, it will impact them and their families in a way that will tighten up their budget.”
Dr. Campbell also noted that the raise in tuition may reduce the amount of courses taken by enrolled students paying their own tuition. “In some instances we have found that when people are having a difficult time economically, they do tend to take less courses.”
Campbell also said that MCCC is still considerably cheaper than four year schools: “On the other hand, we have quite a few students that are here now because of the economy. They may have gone to a more expensive school and they’re saving money by coming here.”
President of SGA and second year Liberal Arts major Anderson Monken is aware that small increase makes a lot of difference for students to pay.
“Of course looking at the broad impact of 10,000 students coming to the school- the small increase means huge amount of money for the budget from the schools perspective, but it really does hurt the students, $200-$300 more per year, just from these small increases,” said Monken.
Monken also expressed disappointment that the technology fee was raised, as opposed to a student activities fee, noting “I did want to know why they haven’t raised the student activities fee, because just like every other department costs are increasing and we have to figure out ways to reduce the size of our programs to make everything work.”
In her interview with the VOICE, Dr. Donohue emphasized that the college was taking steps to make up for lost revenue and to ensure that tuition increases don’t expand, including holding positions vacant.
“When the state reduced its funding about 3 years ago was when we began holding positions vacant. We didn’t do any layoffs. We did all 20 of the cuts by attrition, 5 of which were faculty,” said Donohue.
Donohue concluded by stressing the board’s intention of keeping tuition increases small: “Our Board of Trustees has made a commitment. They want to avoid any larger increases. So we want to build our budget on the assumption that these small increases will occur.”