Tuition rate rises explained
SC4’s yearly tuition rise is approved to go into effect for the upcoming fall semester. Each tuition category, in-district, out-district, student fees, etc. are on the rise for varying amounts.
Here’s how much each category will increase:
In-District: $3 rise
Out-District: $6 rise
Out-State: $9 rise
Student Fee: $7 rise
Technology Fee: $2 rise
Nursing Program Fee: $2 rise
Online Fee: $3 rise
While SC4 increases their tuition rates about once a year, this is, according to Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Nicholas DeGrazia, a part of SC4’s strategy to avoid having to increase tuition all at once. Some other colleges freeze tuition, keeping it the same for a couple years, then when costs for the college increase over the period tuition is frozen, the college is forced to increase tuition by a much greater percentage. For this reason, DeGrazia said, “It’s a lot smarter to have a small annual increase.”
According to SC4 student Emily Atherton, 18, sophomore of Port Huron, if other community colleges freeze tuition, than SC4 should do the same, “If that’s how other community colleges are doing it then we should probably follow in their footsteps.”
While students like Atherton would like to see a less frequent rise in tuition, DeGrazia says that SC4’s tuition and fee level is lower than the state average, so SC4 is neither the lowest nor the highest in regards to tuition average.
The college has three sources of revenue. One being tuition and fees, which is the only category that DeGrazia says SC4 can control, and the other two being state appropriations, and property taxes. DeGrazia says that SC4 operates on about a 2 to 3% per year tuition increase, to maintain the things the college already has.
Some students may be wondering why with the college receiving money from the state tuition is still rising? Well according to Vice President for Administrative services Kirk Kramer, the money received from the state is the same amount as it was in the year 2000. The amount of money received by the state is determined be several factors, one of which being graduation rates. “The graduation rate comprises over 25% of a formula the State of Michigan uses when determining the state aid appropriation for Community Colleges,” Kramer said.
Since graduation rates haven’t changed much in the last 15 years, the college continues to receive the same amount through state appropriations.
The final factor in the college’s budget is property tax, which makes up for about 31% of the overall budget. The money from property taxes is split up into two millages, one being a general or perpetual millage, which has been in effect since 1967 according to Kramer, and is currently in effect for 1.394 mills.
To better understand how a millage works, the explanation of a “mill,” according to an article from FlaglerLive.com, “applied to taxes, 1 mill is equivalent to $1 in taxes per $1,000 in taxable value.”
The second millage, a smaller one that is voted for re-approval by voters in the St. Clair County Community College district every four years, and is currently in effect for .4951 mills.
“This additional millage is used to support buildings, infrastructure, and additional items not possible without the additional funding,” Kramer said.
One could ask so why doesn’t SC4 raise the millage instead of tuition? Well again, SC4 is not in control of anything except for tuition as far as sources of revenue go. DeGrazia explains how the money from property taxes is determined, “If a college is in a district with a higher tax base, their percentage of their total revenue from property tax will be 50% or more, so they’re far less dependent on tuition and fee revenue as a component of the total revenue.”
And, since Port Huron and SC4 have had their fair share of financial hits from the recession back in 2008, the tax base for this area hasn’t changed much.
“In 2008, we and many other colleges across the country took a major hit in the recession, state appropriations went down, and property taxes went down because property values fell. We now find ourselves in a situation where about 20% of our revenue comes from state appropriations,” DeGrazia said.
Although the recession is largely to blame for the frequent increases, some students are still not satisfied with the way SC4 increases tuition rates on a yearly basis.
SC4 sophomore Adam Kentchuski, 24, of Port Huron said, “It’s a load of bullshit that goes straight to the top of the food chain. I get that SC4 is the cheapest school in the area, but for how long?”
While tuition rises may seem “overly frequent” to some students, SC4 Freshman Stacey Kish, 20, of Marysville, sees an annual tuition increase in an understanding light. “I can understand their reasoning for raising the prices frequently, rather than all at once. The lesser of two evils, I suppose. We can’t all have cheap, affordable college like the rest of the world,” Kish said.
According to DeGrazia, tuition increases are a part of maintaining a balanced budget.
“Students should know that we the trustees approve a balanced budget each year, balanced being that the revenue and expense projection each year is equal. You don’t know that you’re going to receive all that revenue or that you will have that exact amount of expenses, so it’s an allocation of money assuming that you will have expenses that will arise in various categories. 80% of the budget on the expense side is people, and a very high percentage in addition to that is support (technology, supplies, etc.) for those people/academic programs (employees, teachers, etc.)
You may or may not spend each of those items in the budget. In some cases, you’ll get halfway through the year and realize that you’re not going to need to have to spend all of that money in that particular category, and so the administration would have the flexibility to move that into a different category where the need is greater,” DeGrazia said.