In a floundering economy, more and more students are going to community colleges but due to statewide cuts, Tyler Junior College is raising tuition nine percent to cover the economic shortfall.
“Raising tuition is always a last resort,” said TJC President Dr. Mike Metke. “The state switched K-12 funding and implemented a business tax. They estimated they would get $10 billion more revenue than they got. That is the root cause of this problem.”
According to Metke, the gap between operations and anticipated house allocation was $3.5 to $4.5 million.
“This shortfall would greatly hurt our mission and our programs,” said Metke. “We are having to make decisions so they won’t cause great pain and future harm.”
TJC is planning to raise tuition by nine percent. This will help cover the estimated $3.5 million cut that the school is aniticpating. The tuition raise will generate approximately $2.3 million. The school is still researching avenues for generating the other $1.2 million needed.
According to Interim Vice President of Business Affairs Sarah Van Cleef, TJC has already absorbed certain growth costs and can’t afford to absorb anymore.
“We are funded every two years from the state,” said Van Cleef. “They give funding based on back data. Since the last two-year period, TJC has grown between 18 to 22 percent. We have absorbed $8 million in unfunded growth.”
According to both Metke and Van Cleef, TJC has been looking for more ways to be efficient. This includes a hiring chill, scrutinizing travel, working with more adjunct teachers and student workers, and delaying campus projects.
Many other state agencies are also being affected by this budget deficit and those cuts are also being felt by the TJC community.
“TechShare works with our library to provide databases for students at a low rate,” said Van Cleef. “They are having to raise their rates which is an additional $154,000 that is not included in the $4.5 million. We might not know about additional costs until the dust settles.”
The Texas House and Senate session will end in May and so far a state budget hasn’t been approved. Metke thinks that several special sessions will be called to resolve this issue.
“We are going to have a budget put together before the state knows what it’s doing,” said Metke. “We might not know the final budget until as late as August.”
For Metke, the hardest part about raising tuition is knowing how it will affect students.
“In this economy, we are a lifeboat for many students and it’s hard to turn them away because of cost,” said Metke. “We want to keep the door wide open and we know this will limit some students.”
Many alternatives are being put in place to help students with costs associated with college.
According to Van Cleef, over half of the students at TJC are out of district. Because of this, TJC has been trying to create schedules and courses that are only two days a week so students wouldn’t have to commute five days in a row.
TJC has made strides trying to combat the budget but according to Metke, there is still a ways to go.
“We didn’t go for what we needed. We went partway there. It’ll be a stretch to find $1.3 million in additional efficiencies,” said Metke. “We don’t know if we have any more fat left to trim. We’re down to muscle and bone.”