Although raising tuition at Frederick Community College from $106 to $109 per credit hour may not seem like much, for students like Nora Aziz, it will make a difference.
Aziz, who has been taking nursing classes, is unemployed after being laid off from her job at Chase bank and already struggles to cover the cost of her college education.
Between the expense of her books — which range from $250 to $600 per semester — and payment for pre-requisite classes she needs to complete for nursing, Aziz, who has a 2-year-old son, is feeling the pinch.
She said she had tried twice since 2005 to get her associate’s degree at FCC, but had to drop out because she couldn’t afford to pay full tuition.
“You never hear what it means to us students,” Aziz said Monday, getting ready to spend $250 on two books for the coming semester. “It all adds up in the end.”
Tuition at the college has been going up every year since at least 2004, when students had to pay $80 per credit hour.
Students this year pay $106 per credit hour, and the college board of trustees last week voted unanimously in support of another 2.8 percent hike. The change means that a full-time student taking the minimum 12 credits will pay $1,308 instead of $1,272 per semester.
Trustees decided on the move as they worked to ballance their $47.7 million budget for fiscal 2013, which starts in July.
Although the board was concerned about raising tuition again, they said it was a necessary step in order to allow the college to make up for minimal increases in state funding, said Doug Browning, FCC’s interim president.
“Naturally they’d love not to have an increase at all,” Browning said.
The problem was that the college this year did not see much of an increase in county and state funding, which ideally are supposed to represent two-thirds of the school’s revenue.
College officials could not get the board of county commissioners to reverse a $1 million cut in funding from last year and only received a one-time $500,000 increase from the county. The state on the other hand, did not increase funding for the college at all, Browning said.
With 29 percent of funding for the college in fiscal 2013 coming from the county and 21 percent coming from the state, college officials had to make up the remaining percentage from tuition revenues, he said.
“Less than 3 percent (tuition increase) is good,” said Browning, adding that some community colleges in Maryland are raising their tuition even more.
With the increase in tuition, college officials have been able to provide funding for other needs at the college.
The budget — which represents $1.7 million or 3.7 percent increase over last year’s spending plan — includes money dedicated to support a projected 1 percent increase in student population. The plan sets aside funding for a 3.5 percent step increase and a 2 percent cost-of-living salary adjustments for employees.
In addition, the budget sets aside funding for creating extra faculty positions necessary for serving the college’s fast expanding student population, Browning said. Concerned about the growing imbalance of adjunct employees over faculty (which is 65:35), officials have created four new positions for faculty members, as well as two part-time clinical coordinator positions, one new counselor position and a custodian, Browning said.
In response to the upward trend in tuition, college officials have been trying to bolster programs that help students reduce their costs in college, Browning said. FCC continues to support its book scholarship program and also has bolstered an initiative which allows students to lease books instead of buying them.
“We’ve tried to greatly expand our scholarship program,” said Browning. “We are looking everywhere we can to keep the cost down for our students.”
But unless the state and county step up and increase funding, there is little hope of avoiding more tuition hikes in the future, Browning said. As a result, the college may see an increase in the number of students who take classes part-time in order to work and try to cover their tuition.
Students at the college agreed and said the biggest impact will be on those who cannot rely on parents and other family members to help them shoulder the cost.
“It really depends on how much money their family makes,” said Rachel Rosebrock, who graduated from Brunswick High this year and just started in the FCC nursing program.
While she is at the community college, Rosebrock will be getting help with tuition from her grandparents and parents, so she doesn’t expect the hike to affect her significantly. But it may mean that she gets less help when she moves on to a four-year school.