Trustees: tuition increase on the horizon

A new fiscal year may be approaching, but after the College’s Board of Trustees’ final public meeting on April 26, the song remains the same — state aid is low, tuition is increasing and being able to afford admission is only getting more difficult.

“It’s hard to figure out how to swim upstream,” said Christopher R. Gibson, vice chair of the Board. “The Board of Trustees is committed to keeping this a place where you can get the best education.”

The primary focus of the meeting, which took place in Brower Student Center Room 202W, was the annual tuition hearing, a precursor to a July 12 meeting where the trustees will vote on the upcoming year’s budget and establish tuition costs for the 2011-2012 academic year.

A “limited” tuition increase is expected in July, and although there will no longer be a state tuition cap, as there was last year, to control how much an institution can raise fees, the trustees affirmed that they have students’ interests in mind.

“We will do what we can to prioritize the need for affordable education at the four-year state level,” Gibson said.

No figures were presented regarding the increase, but the cause is a usual suspect — continual budget aid cuts by the state. In Fiscal Year 2011, the College received $5.2 million less from the state than in Fiscal Year 2010 — more than a 15-percent slash. According to Lloyd Ricketts, associate treasurer, the College has seen a 6.5-percent drop in base budget appropriation since 2008.

Tuition totaled $13,273 for in-state students and $22,659 for out-of-state students during the 2010-2011 academic year. For each 1 percent that tuition is increased in July, in-state fees will rise $133 and out-of-state will go up $227. Room and board fees would increase $104 for each percent.

“We are in the same position as the last several years,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said. “We don’t know how many resources we will have. We can no longer cut back in areas where we have before.”

Areas where the College has scaled back funds in the past, but plans to restore include the information technology department — specifically computer replacement — and maintenance. Purchasing new academic laboratory equipment will also be addressed, an important development according to board member Robert Altman.

“There may be lots of arguing about buying new lab equipment when the state is in trouble, but it takes many years to build a department into something to be proud of and only one or two to cut it down,” said Altman in reference to old equipment.

Gitenstein noted that the established tuition cap of 4 percent is an “interesting kind of problem” in itself.

“It sounds good because the cost to students and parents won’t go up, but some programs will not have the resources to be delivered,” she said.

Revenue strategies for the upcoming year in addition to the tuition increase include a modest overall increase in enrollment of around 60 students, as well as a multi-year operating budget that echoes the College’s overall strategic plan.

Gitenstein will be attending assembly meetings in the coming weeks to oversee how the College’s new budget is shaping up before the Board will need to vote.

“I spend a lot of time making sure the campus is informed,” she said. “I try my best to work with legislature to not be cut any further.”