College Funding Down 18 Percent

A budget as large as the one UCC juggles is often more of a guessing game than a science because funding based on property taxes and enrollment fluctuates year to year and sometimes even within a single year.

Concerns that next year’s budget won’t balance led to an administrative decision to take a $5 tuition and fee increase proposition before the school board.

The recommendation must be presented in March in order to meet the April budget deadline. 

The reasons given for tuition increase are many.

The first is the inflationary increase in utility expenses (the simple fact that gas prices have increased causes an increase in institutional costs).

A yearly increasing bond cost to pay for the Danny Lang Center must also be considered.  The 2011 bond payment of $240,000 will go up to $270,000 in 2012.

“We have a huge building up there that we didn’t have before,” said Lynn Moore, Vice President for Administrative Services, “and it takes a lot of money to keep the power on and keep the heat going and all that”

Other reasons are also being given such as increasing health care costs.

The added expenses are an important budgeting factor to consider because state funding to UCC is actually projected to slightly increase to $10,626,062, up from $10,250,743.  Overall, however, funding from the state to Oregon community colleges has dropped 18 percent from 2007, and the latest tuition increase would constitute a total increase in tuition form 2007 of 21 percent.

No one wants to pay more, but one silver lining in this potential tuition increase is the starting point. UCC’s tuition is currently the lowest in the state at $72 per credit, and the $3 tuition increase would keep UCC more than $6 below the current state average.  In addition, the majority of majority of Oregon community colleges are also currently considering tuition increases.

The bad news is that financial aid seems to be caught in the middle of a sea saw act between federal and state college funding institutions.  Each time federal tuition aid is increased, states tend to increase tuition as well resulting in little change other than a perception of over-priced education.

The federal government has reacted to the economic crunch by deciding last month to limit Pell Grant aid to six total years of education.  This decision is retroactive, meaning that every college class a student has ever enrolled in will now count toward their six year total.

In the midst of this decision the administration hopes to find common ground and increase transparency.  Opinions of students were sought two weeks ago in a series of three forums, and administration hopes to keep the conversation alive. 

“I want students to become more educated on the budget and finances of their institution,” said Moore. 

Moore hopes to create an environment in which administration, faculty and students work together to come to budget decisions.  She hopes to make the dream of monthly budget meetings with students a reality.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.