Tuition increases and first-time senior citizens fees may be the cause of a reduction in enrollment at Anne Arundel Community College, staff members say.
"The economy may be responsible for the decline (in enrollment)," said college Vice-President and Dean of Student Services Augustine Pounds. "We will have a better idea once we've gathered all the information."
Pounds introduced preliminary information, which shows a 3 percent decline in full-time student enrollment, at Tuesday night's monthlymeeting of the college's board of trustees.
Following substantialgrowth in enrollment between 1990 and 1991, the community college has shown a decrease in enrollment figures from the spring of 1991 to the spring of 1992. Enrollment has dropped from 11,724 students to 11,346.
Both staff and board members attribute much of the decrease to the recession-plagued economy.
The community college last fall had to absorb a loss of $3 million due to state and local budget cuts.
The college has tried to compensate for that loss by increasing the cost of a credit hour from $44 to $54, in addition to a one-time $15 surcharge for registration.
For the first time, the community college also began charging senior citizens for classes that were previously free. Senior citizens must now pay a $40 fee per class in addition to a $10 registration fee. However, they may ask for a fee waiver.
Jennifer Wittman, president of the college's Student GovernmentAssociation, told board members more senior citizens are asking for waivers, and more full-time students are having to leave the college because of the tuition increase.
"Only a small portion of the (senior-citizen) students are choosing to pay the . . . fees," Wittman said.
And, he added, "A lot of (full-time) students have decided to take a semester off or reduce their credits because they cannot afford the costs."
Acknowledging the crisis the college faces because of budget cuts, Wittman urged the board to dispense with the waiver for senior-citizen fees and make the costs mandatory.
Chairman of the Board Donald Roane said the state Attorney General's Office recently ruled that Prince George's Community College could not collect feesfrom its senior-citizen students. While the ruling does not affect Anne Arundel County, the college is taking the ruling under consideration before it makes any further decisions on senior-citizen fees, Roane said.
Bill Clutter, dean of Continuing Education and Extended Programs, said nearly 75 percent of the senior students registered forspring semester classes had all or part of their fees waived.
"I don't think the waiver system will work," Clutter said. "We need to establish a fee and live with it."
Harford, Cecil and Chesapeake community colleges have ceased to offer free classes for senior citizens, in an effort to deal with a loss in state and local revenues.
The board, which will meet again Feb. 25, has asked the college's staff to present the final figures for the spring enrollment. Board members also are requesting that the staff track students who withdrew from the college to find out what part, if any, the economy and the increase in tuition played in their decision.