HCC proposes $2-per-credit tuition rise

School cites enrollment increase, need for more full-time faculty

January 17, 2010|By Larry Carson | larry.carson@baltsun.com

Howard Community College officials are proposing a $2-per-credit tuition increase for next year, though that could change depending on possible state and county budget cuts.

With new funds in short supply despite continually growing enrollment, the college is facing a squeeze in which full-time faculty is shrinking compared with part-time, or adjunct, professors, and college leaders are looking for a way to make what board Chairman T. James Truby called "a gesture" toward the faculty and high-quality instruction.

"We are dangerously low as regards our full-time versus part-time faculty ratio," warned college President Kate Hetherington. "We can't rely on adjunct faculty" to carry the main teaching load, she said.

This year, 39 percent of the faculty is full-time, and eight more instructors are needed just to stay even as enrollment is expected to rise 4 percent. But the budget proposes hiring half that number of full-time professors next year. To reach the industry accreditation goal of at least half the faculty as full-timers, the college would need to hire 26 more people.

The combination of the tuition increase, hopes of a combined $552,000 increase from the state and county, and $1.6 million in savings from internal cuts and job freezes resulted in a fiscal year 2011 budget proposal of $115.1 million, which includes a 2.5 percent ($2.2 million) spending increase, the college's trustees heard at a budget presentation Wednesday evening. Child care fees at the college's on-campus day care center would also rise 3 percent, officials said.

The final figures won't be known until May, however, after state and county budgets are adopted. In the past three fiscal years, the college was slated to get significant increases from the state, only to see those amounts cut drastically during the year as the recession deepened. This year, for example, the state cut $653,174 in promised funding, leaving only $40,000 of the increase intact.

The 1 percent, or $252,000, more requested from the county for fiscal 2011 would pay for the four new faculty positions, said the college's vice president for finance, Lynn Coleman. The college gets 44 percent of its money from the state and county, with another 38 percent coming from tuition and fees. In the proposed budget, Howard County government would provide $25.2 million, and the state $13 million.

"We have to be so grateful to the county for continuing the level of support, since the state is declining," said board member Patrick Huddie.

"It is thoughtful and realistic, but rather sobering," Truby said of the entire proposal. "It does at least make a gesture toward full-time-adjunct [faculty] balance and also a gesture toward compensation."

The proposed tuition increase would keep Howard's rate the highest in Maryland, though slightly under Montgomery College's if fees are included. Howard charges $114 per credit in tuition, with $19 per credit in fees. Montgomery charges $102 per credit in tuition, but adds $34 per credit in fees. Harford Community College is the state's cheapest for students, at $77 per credit with $9 added in fees.

Coleman pointed out that $14 of the current $114 per credit tuition pays for scholarships for needy students and debt on new buildings.

The $300,000 raised from a higher tuition would help provide a 1.5 percent pay raise next fiscal year for instructors, who got no pay raises this year. Coleman said the plan is to provide a 1 percent pay raise for staff July 1 and another 1 percent raise Jan. 1, which averages out to 1.5 percent, she said. The four new positions are crucial, she said.

"We desperately need those positions with our enrollment increase. We are just bursting at the seams. We need more than this, but this is the minimum we could ask for," she told the board.

On another front, revenues are down for the Belmont Conference Center, the historic estate that the college owns in Elkridge, dropping from $2.1 million last year to $1.8 million this year. The college is trying to sell the 18th-century estate and the adjoining Dobbin property for an asking price of $4.4 million.

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