KINGMAN - When Judy Ehlers, a 59-year-old student at Mohave Community College, recently went to pay her 2011-2012 tuition, she found out that she no longer qualified for the college's discounted senior citizen tuition rate.
"There was no notification," Ehlers said. "This is devastating for seniors."
In February, the MCC Board of Governors approved a motion that raised the age requirement for the discount. They also approved a tuition hike.
Prior to the change, students who were 55 or older paid 50 percent less than other students for tuition.
Although a story previewing the Board's meeting appeared in the Feb. 11 edition of the Miner, the focus was on possible tuition changes, and no mention was made about the senior discount.
Board agendas are sent to local media outlets, said MCC President Michael Kearns. But if certain aspects are missed or ignored, where can people get the information they require? Board meeting agendas are posted online, and people can view them at MCC campuses 24 hours prior to meetings, Kearns said. Information regarding tuition and fees also appears in MCC's catalog for the corresponding year.
Kearns said the decision to increase the age was based on several factors. First and foremost, MCC's state aid was reduced by 50 percent, which amounts to $1.8 million. This development forced the college to look at the continuation of its incentive options and make subsequent changes. The age change was only one of the incentives modified, Kearns said.
"We also wanted to bring the age into alignment with traditional senior discount ages at other colleges and in the community," Kearns said.
During the analysis of tuition rates, Kearns said it was found that the senior rate for some community outreach classes - non-credit enrichment courses - was being misapplied. The Board had approved a 25 percent senior discount for these courses some time ago, but the college was applying a 50 percent discount in many circumstances due to data input errors, Kearns said. The mistake has been corrected for the upcoming school year.
"Those affected will perceive this as an increase," Kearns said. "But it really isn't. There was no action (taken) to make this change because it was already approved by the Board."
Also, when staff changed the community outreach rate to apply to the approved rate, they also changed the senior rate for credit courses to 75 percent of what it costs students under 62. This was not supposed to happen, Kearns said. The approved senior rate of 50 percent, which went into effect years ago, has not changed. Only the age requirement has, he said. Throughout all MCC campuses, approximately 13 people were affected by this mistake, and either their financial aid will be adjusted or they will receive refunds if they paid more than they were required, Kearns said.
Ehlers believes the changes will be detrimental to the community of seniors who attend or want to attend MCC. Many seniors just won't be able to go, Ehlers said. The change means at least $500 to every senior student - money that could go to books, gas and food.
"It's not fair," Ehlers said. "I love the school; it's a life changer for many, but the bureaucracy of it gets in the way.
Students graduating after the age of 62 are not going to be able to get jobs anywhere unless it's at Taco bell, Ehlers said.
At the February meeting, the tuition rate was increased by $5 to $74 per credit hour for in-state residents. That means a three-credit class costs $222. Out-of-state tuition was increased as well to $296 per credit hour, which is four times the amount in-state students pay. A three-credit class for out-of-state students costs $888.
Out-of-state students who qualify for the Western Undergraduate Exchange rate will pay 1.5 times the in-state rate - $111 per credit hour. The WUE rate is available to students in neighboring states for all courses except those in most allied health programs, according to an MCC release.