Tyler Junior College will increase tuition for all students, taking effect first in the spring of 2009 and again in the summer of 2009. The TJC Board of Trustees voted on the increase after deciding Tyler residents were already paying appropriate taxes.
The tuition for in-district students will increase $2 per semester credit hour in the spring and an additional $3 in the summer, bringing the total charge for tuition to $28 per semester credit hour by summer of 2009. Out-of-district students will pay $3 more per semester credit hour in the spring and an additional $2 in the summer bringing the total to $40 per semester credit hour.
The general education fee will also be increasing $1 per semester credit hour in the spring and an additional $4 in the summer.
Lab fees for nursing, automotive and welding programs will increase from $25 to $75.
“It’s unfortunate, but we want to continue to provide quality education,” Fred Peters, director of Marketing and Public Information, said. “In order to do that, we have to find ways to make up for increases in the cost for operating the college.”
Peters said the increases are largely caused by factors like inflation, specifically concerning operating costs. The recent minimum wage increase and part-time teacher raises were two of the biggest contributors.
“We’ve had an increase in minimum wage and until Dr. Metke arrived, we had not adjusted our adjunct or part-time faculty salaries in more than 20 years,” he said. “Those things plus the five percent inflation we’ve seen over the last year, and the increase in electricity and gas add up.”
Sophomore Jacob Pruitt said he and many other students attend TJC because of the prices, and raising tuition could be detrimental.
“One of the good things about TJC is that it’s affordable to a lot of kids. It is a lot cheaper than a four-year university,” Pruitt said. “If they keep raising [tuition] they are going to lose one of their biggest assets.”
Peters said the college and the board are cautious of increasing tuition, and only do it when necessary.
“We hate to do it. We realize a community college is open access by design, and our mission is to be open access and provide an opportunity for higher education that is by and large not limited by income,” Peters said. “So we are very mindful of that, and our board of trustees is very cautious.”
Peters said that when assessing possible revenue sources, students are always the last consideration, but there are only a few possible solutions.
“Our property tax payers have expressed a desire not to see their property tax rate go up. So we’ve tried to be diligent with our rate and we’ve kept it the same,” Peters said. “The only other option is eliminating things, eliminating services, eliminating programs, cutting staff. We have a very lean college in terms of staff compared to other like colleges. For us to reduce staff size would not be a viable option.”
Freshman Aaron Nelson came to TJC from Philadelphia. He is taking 17 hours and believes the current cost of tuition is fair but doesn’t think an increase is necessary.
“There are enough students here that they shouldn’t have to increase tuition,” Nelson said. “A lot of people here are out-of-district, and it’s worse for them. The school is being too greedy.”
Nelson also said the city of Tyler seems to be in good economic health, and should be able to handle the tax increase.
“No one wants to raise taxes, but for a small town… Tyler is doing pretty well, and it’s growing. More people are moving in. They could raise taxes,” he said.
However, Nelson also agreed with freshman Matthew Butler, saying if the school were to use the money to add resources and programs for students, it would be reasonable.
“If the school implements the money toward beneficial things to all the students, then it would make sense. We don’t know what they are going to do with the money in the long run,” Butler said. “If they are going to make campus life for the students better, then sure, might as well. If they are in debt or need to repair buildings, then it would completely make sense.”
Another concern for students is how the increase will affect financial aid.
“Are they going to increase financial aid too?” Freshman Jake Smith asked. “It seems one-sided just to raise the cost and not take into account anything else to help students.”
Peters said the increase shouldn’t have an impact on most students’ financial aid, but that the process is so specific to each student, he couldn’t say it definitely wouldn’t have an effect.
Freshman Chris Walker thinks the current increase can’t be helped, but hopes to have a say in future changes.
“They are going to increase it if they have to,” he said. “I will just have to wait until the next vote and speak my mind.”
Peters said that he doesn’t foresee the increase being a yearly occurrence, but also said the economy is hard to predict.
“We think we have our tuition and fees where we can feel comfortable. We had additional increases just in operating costs that we don’t anticipate having,” he said. “But you can never anticipate what the economy is going to bring to you. We know we need to keep things affordable.”