MCC board discusses tuition hike

Students attending Mohave Community College next year may find their classes more expensive.

A proposed tuition increase was discussed Tuesday night during a meeting of the district governing board in Kingman.

President Thomas Henry, Vice President Bill Lovejoy and Dean of Students Dan Messersmith told board members that the increase is a financial necessity.

Henry said one of the most telling findings of a tuition study he requested is that the median family income in Mohave County is ninth in the state at $36,311, but tuition at MCC is the lowest at $24 per credit hour.

An MCC student enrolling for 15 hours per semester, or 30 hours per year, pays tuition and fees of about $866, the study states.

That cost placed against the Mohave County median family income amounts to 2.4 percent, while nationally community college tuition charges in 2000 amounted to 12 percent of family income.

"The revenue stream has to be a (moderate or small amount) of revenue to help support the college," Henry said.

"You can't do it all on local tax dollars and state aid."

Just 9.8 percent of MCC revenue comes from tuition while nationally the figure is roughly 24 percent, the study found.

That figure should be 33 percent for an institution of higher learning to remain financially healthy, Henry said.

A student at MCC now pays an additional $10 per credit for the first three credit hours, a surcharge that increases to $50 at eight credit hours, plus a technology fee of $15.

Henry has proposed a flat rate tuition schedule like most other colleges and universities.

That schedule would increase tuition to $38 per credit hour for fiscal year 2003-2004 with small increases over the following four years to a maximum $50 per credit hour.

Had the college charged $34 per credit during 2001-2002 on a flat tuition schedule and no $10 fee, revenue would have amounted to $2,372,146, or $664,455 more than was actually collected, the study states.

"This proposal is not going to break the bank for our students," Henry said.

"If they have a need-based analysis that shows they qualify for aid, which many do, Pell grants will more than cover these increases."

Messersmith told board members the maximum Pell grant is $4,000 per year.

MCC philosophy has long been to offer the lowest-priced education in the state for a two-year college, Henry said.

"It probably was not a bad policy early on," Henry said.

"But as we lose more state aid and have more financial demands placed on the institution, we have to make sure our revenue streams will help take care of them to keep the college viable."

Board member Dean Finkbeiner raised concerns about an older population in the county, market specifics and median incomes.

But he agreed the college is far below market costs in what it delivers.

"I have no doubt as to the need for this increase because of the lack of support from the state," Finkbeiner said.

"When I first got on the board 25 years ago they supported us to the tune of 47 percent of our revenues.

"Now it's down to 26 or 27 percent, so the burden is on the local population to support its educational needs, and this has been imposed on us by the state Legislature."

A special meeting of the governing board is planned for Dec.

2, when board members will vote on the proposed tuition hike.

Board president Dan Hargrove said he is uncertain how that vote might go and he expects more information at that meeting.

"I am always concerned about any increase no matter where we stand on the ladder because of the make up of the people of Mohave County," Hargrove said.

"We have a lot of retired people, and income in several communities is not up to par, so I always question whether we might lose students even due to a $2 increase.

"There are Pell grants and many types of scholarships available that we need to let everyone know about and other things they can do to get money to go to Mohave Community College.

But faced with such a mind boggling budget crunch with 8 percent of revenues we're not getting from the state, we're really looking at some lean times, and a tuition increase is one way to generate revenue and offset the shortfall."