Administration Seeks Student Input

Hard economic times are putting the crunch on campus, and in order to meet budgets, administrators are considering charging another $5 per credit.

The proposed $5 a credit hike will be broken up into two parts: $3 to pay for operational costs and $2 to support tutoring. At this time, no student activity fees are being proposed for an increase.

The $3 raise in tuition is being considered, according to Lynn Moore, vice president for administrative services and student development, to cover increasing expenses for utilities, pay roll, health care, adding new staff and to help pay back the disaster recovery bonds that were used for the viticulture building. “This institution is very, very lean on faculty, staff and administrators,” Moore noted.

The $2 will complement the existing tutoring at the ESB with SmartThinking, an online program that started in 1998.  SmartThinking is a tutoring system that is used to communicate with students by combining “virtual white board technology” and staff (who have P.H.D’s, Masters Degrees or Bachelor degrees). SmartThinking gives professional aid and real-time response that may enhance the ability of the UCC instructor to present a more clear and concise learning experience.  Students can find help in these subjects: writing, reading, math, science, business, ESL, Spanish, nursing, allied health, computers and technology. Online tutoring will be offered 24 hours a day 7 days a week from any computer as long as the Internet is available.

The writing and math tutoring is extensive. For example, students can submit writing assignments for view where suggestions will be made and the mistakes they make will be pointed out but no editing or corrections will be done. The student will also have the option for more specialized tutoring by an ESL, Technical Writing or Creative Writing experts. Students can also use the white board to pose a question if they do not need immediate feedback. For math tutoring, the system allows students to draw shapes. 

The system, however, is not free. Chris Harwood, ASUCC vice president, shared his personal thoughts about the cost:  “If we’re going to pay a $5 increase and $2 of that $5 increase will go to SmartThinking, I’d like to compromise and have $1 of that $2 go to ESB tutors so student tutors  can earn some money. We need to support our students here and give them the chance to succeed if it means being a tutor at TOP or ESB. You’re going to succeed as a student learner as well if you have someone you can go to face-to-face.”

Harwood also expressed concern about access to SmartThinking. “What about the poorer students who don’t have access all day long to Internet or who don’t have any Internet ?“

SmartThinking and the fee hikes were discussed in 3 open forums led by Moore Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 which were lightly attended. The 3:30 p.m. forum included 6 people in attendance; 4 were students and 2 were faculty members.

Many concerns were brought to light in the forum discussion. “Why is there a tuition increase being proposed now? And can fees go up?” one student asked.

Moore responded, “The UCC board policy is that no tuition and no fees will be increased without their approval. Instruction is working on a list to take to the Board of Directors. It needs to be taken to the board in March and April because the board has two readings before the tuition or fees can be approved. That way it is factored into the budget and it is put into place for the next academic year. That begins in the summer. We’re kind of here at the eleventh hour talking about possible tuition increases and possible fee increases.”

Whatever the tuition increase timeline, the increases have an effect on students trying to make ends meet and receive an education. “I’m an unemployed student, a disabled vet; I can’t go back to my old job. I came here looking at picking up a different job. The tuition here is, to me, near the max that I can absorb with funding that I did have. An extra $2 to $4 per credit probably wouldn’t break my bank, but I would have liked to have seen other issues addressed other than tuition -- trying to set up a way for the campus to collect funds other than the students would have been [a] good one,” said Richard Vander Velden.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.