OCCC is expecting modest tuition increases next fall due to an projected 5 to 10 percent reduction in state funds.
OCCC President Paul Sechrist said the tuition increase is being considered because of a predicted shortfall.
“While we hope to make up some of the cuts from existing resources and controlling expenses, some modest level of increase in tuition will likely be necessary to maintain current course offerings and services to students,” he said.
Sechrist said OCCC’s commitment is to make the increase as small as possible.
“[The tuition increase is] not going to be double digit at all,” he said. “I’m hoping it is going to be 5 percent or lower if we can keep it that low.”
Sechrist said the school is funded 50 percent by the state of Oklahoma, 35 percent by tuition and another 15 percent by other sources of income.
He said one of those sources is the the South Oklahoma City Area Technical School District, an area in southwest Oklahoma City where the property taxes paid by those who live there go to the college.
“That’s probably the most significant source of funding since about $5 million comes from property taxes in the area near the college.”
Sechrist said while OCCC has been able to control many costs such as personnel expenses, OCCC employee salaries, and the healthcare offered to OCCC employees, other essential costs, such as utilities and software licenses are expected to increase.
“We have campuswide Microsoft, campuswide e-mail, campuswide wireless,” he said. “All of those systems cost money and there are maintenance fees for those, and they go up almost every year”
Sechrist said the cost to keep up the existing licenses and maintenance based upon the number of students who attend OCCC is increasing $200,000 to $300,000 annually.
While tuition is increasing, Sechrist said, at this point, there is no discussion of fee increases.
In the past two years Sechrist said, federal stimulus money and the state’s Rainy Day Fund have offset the steep reduction in state revenue which funds state agencies, including OCCC.
“The stimulus funds were available for the last two years, but are not available for next year,” he said. “The Rainy Day fund, which was also used for the last two years, is now almost empty.
“Oklahoma now has $500 million less to provide to state agencies, including colleges like OCCC.”
Sechrist said the goal is to use the college’s savings, control all costs where possible, and increase tuition a little, so as to not reduce budgets any more than OCCC already has.
“Even with more students, our departments have been asked to provide all the increased courses and services with about the same resources they have had for the last three years,” he said.
“While departments will not be hit with cuts, they will have to find ways to stretch the budgets to continue all of the services to students.”
Sechrist said an option could be to raise tuition even more to add some staff, but at this point OCCC really wants to minimalize the costs to everybody.
As college employees enter the third year in a row without raises, Sechrist said, he realizes the sacrifices being made by everyone.
“We’re all sort of sacrificing,” he said. “I think our faculty and staff have sacrificed. I think they have done additional work with the same resources, with no pay increases, while their own costs have gone up.
“Students have had to sacrifice too because they have had to pay a little bit more each year.”
Sechrist said even with the tuition increase, OCCC’s tuition is lower than the average cost of community colleges in neighboring states.
Sechrist said the increases in higher education aren’t just being felt by OCCC.
“Every state-supported college will face the same reduction percentage we’re facing. Everyone’s going to be impacted,” he said.
“I suspect there will be modest increases in tuition across the board. I can’t imagine an institution will be able to absorb a 5, 7.5 or 10 percent cut without having to raise tuition at some level.”
Sechrist said he commends students, faculty, and staff for the sacrifices they have made in helping OCCC get through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
“I do understand the impact of tuition increases,” Sechrist said.
“There is always a great deal of thought when we think about raising tuition.
“We want to be an affordable college.
“We know students come here because it’s an affordable college, but we recognize quality costs money. To have great professors, to have all the resources in our labs, to have free tutors, to have all the computers to help students learn, to have all the lab resources, it just costs money.
“Quality costs money.”