The Times West Virginian

April 1, 2014

PC&TC board recommends tuition, fee hike

By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Pierpont Community and Technical College’s board of governors approved a recommendation to raise tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Pierpont’s finance committee recommended a 7 percent increase for the next academic year, which adds up to $145 extra for resident students and $345 for non-residents.

The state reduced appropriations 3.75 percent, or about $300,000, next year.

That state reduction, combined with a dip in Pierpont’s enrollment for the 2013-2014 academic year, left the finance committee looking for ways to allow the institution to break even next year.

“Tuition is where we generate most of our dollars,” said Dale Bradley, vice president of finance and administration at Pierpont.

Enrollment dropped about 8 percent at Pierpont this academic year, and Pierpont is not the only institution seeing fewer students come in, said Jennifer Weist, associate vice president of student services.

Enrollment is down statewide, even close to 10 percent in some places, she said.

“When we built our budget for this current year, we built it on flat enrollment from the previous academic years” she said. “So, when our enrollments were down, we had to make adjustments to the budget because we did not bring in the tuition and fees that we anticipated we would for this academic year.”

Weist said Pierpont is working on an overhaul of their marketing plan to help bump up enrollment, and the board discussed ways to get representatives into high schools to reach out to prospective students, hoping to increase enrollment for next year to prevent further tuition raises in later years.

The finance committee prepared a projected budget using a 5-percent increase at first, but it did not provide enough revenue.

“Between the adjustment we needed to make for enrollment reductions and for the state appropriation, that’s where we ended up at 7 percent,” said Bradley. “That’s basically what allows us to break even from a revenue perspective. Our revenue would stay pretty much neutral if projections hold up. That’s based on a zero change in enrollment.”

The committee also proposed increases in some special fees at the institution.

The developmental math course fee will change to a flat $55 instead of the previous $6 per credit hour, which will include a copy of the access code for online materials required for class.

The Medical Laboratory Technology per-credit-hour fee will also increase from $13 to $15.

Pierpont President Doreen Larson recommended that the board approve the increases, saying they can adjust tuition in future years if their enrollment increases.

“This really is our break-even number,” Dr. Larson said. “We’ll still need to watch our budget ... We have taken aggressive steps for enrollment, so I am comfortable with this number. I do think that we will hold enrollment.”

The board followed Dr. Larson’s recommendation.

However, the proposal will be submitted to the Community and Technical College System today, and they will either approve or deny the raise based on justifications Pierpont will submit with the proposal.

If the 7-percent tuition increase is not approved, the board of governors can still implement up to a 5-percent tuition increase on its own without further approval.

“The board’s goal and the administration’s goal would be to never raise tuition, if we could avoid it,” Bradley said.

“But we’ve been faced with some unusual circumstances in the case of some significant reductions to our state appropriation for the current year and (next) year. When you add those two together, we’ve gotten an 11-percent reduction overall ... That’s a big number. That’s double digits.

“When you combine that with the fact that we lost some students this year and had this unexpected decline in enrollment, those two things together are forcing us to take some action to help to stabilize our budget plan for next year.”

Email Chelsi Baker at cbaker@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.