For the first time since June 2008, OCCC is considering raising tuition, and for the second year in a row faculty and employees will not receive raises — all due to a decrease in state appropriations, said President Paul Sechrist.
For 2011, the college is expecting a $1.46 million funding reduction over last year.
As a result of the reduction, the college has proposed a $6 per-credit-hour increase for resident students and a $10 increase per credit hour for non-resident students.
Hannah Williams, literature major and Welcome Desk attendant, said a $6 tuition increase is not that much compared to other colleges, but what concerns her are other college expenses.
“I can agree with the tuition raise, but I’m spending a third to half of what I spend on tuition on books alone,” Williams said.
Sechrist said the proposed tuition increase, if enacted, “will help us balance the budget to be able to provide the sections students need to keep the labs open and not reduce staff.”
He said the proposal will be discussed at the June 14 regents meeting, but won’t be up for approval until the June 21 regular board meeting.
The State Regents for Higher Education will then vote on the proposal June 24.
Although it’s not good, the funding reduction could have been much worse, Sechrist said.
A higher reduction in funding to the college could also have resulted in layoffs and furloughs as at least one state college has seen.
However, last-minute negotiations with the state legislature brought the funding reduction to just a little more than 5 percent, resulting in no layoffs, Sechrist said.
However, employees will still be affected.
Sechrist said the funding reduction means no raises for college employees.
“I regret that this will be the second year in a row that we’re not able to provide salary increases to our employees,” Sechrist said.
Dayshawn Burns, psychology major and Welcome Desk attendant, said it’s unfair that employees don’t get a raise with the cost of living on the rise.
“In my opinion, if you don’t get a raise you’re going to end up being behind on everything,” Burns said. “We deserve raises because the economy’s changing.”
One student worker is feeling the funding decrease.
Alicia Summers, health sciences major and Welcome Desk attendant, said she’s been cut back to 20 hours per week as a result.
She said she understands the necessity of cutting back hours, but said she figures the college will eventually have to hire more workers to fill in the gaps, making this move a moot point.
“Right now we’re really having to really push around people and make sure the Welcome Center is fully attended at all times which means we’re going to have to hire on more people, which does not make sense.”
Sechrist said the choice to not provide raises or merit pay is logical since personnel costs make up 70 percent of the college budget.
He said by holding salary and wages the same, the college will see a savings of $1 million.
“Freezing wages doesn’t reduce current costs, but at least keeps personnel costs at their current level,” Sechrist said.
Even with the salary freeze the college is struggling to cut costs and raise additional revenue, Sechrist said.
Along with the proposed tuition increase, the college is moving toward a self-funded health insurance program, Sechrist said.
The partially self-funded health insurance plan would have the college placing employee health insurance premiums into a special college account.
Claims would then be paid from that account rather than paying the premiums to a third party who then pays the claim on behalf of the college.
Sechrist explained the plan is partially self-funded because OCCC also will provide third-party “stop loss” insurance that will pay claims on behalf of OCCC should the self-funded account run short.
He said this change will save the college a 15.5 percent increase in health insurance costs.
The good news in all of this, Sechrist said, is the college has maintained all faculty positions and kept all resources available for students.
“We’re going to work hard to make sure the student experience of what resources are available in the labs, the hours our college is open, and free tutoring in the labs remain in place,” he said.
To contact Joey Stipek, email firstname.lastname@example.org.