05/26/10 — Wayne Community College talks state funding prospects

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Wayne Community College talks state funding prospects

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 26, 2010 1:46 PM

It is too early to tell how the state budget will affect Wayne Community College, but a possible tuition hike has been mentioned and come 2011, community colleges across the state will be required to reinstate the student loan program.

At its board of trustees meeting Tuesday night college President Dr. Kay Albertson gave an update on the governor's budget and the Senate budget, which went to the House last week.

"The Senate treated community colleges very well," she said. "It appears the House subcommittee is requesting full funding. That will take care of the enrollment growth that we have seen."

From the House perspective, she said there is proposed funding of $4 million that would be divided among 58 community colleges in the state.

"That's not a lot of money but we will take what we can get at this point," she said.

Both sides are recommending a tuition increase. The Senate would call for $5 per-credit-hour for in-state students and $5.70 for out-of-state students, while the governor proposed an $8 per-credit-hour increase.

"The House has come back to that $8 for in-state, $8.70 for those out-of-state," she said. "What we really need to hit hard on with our House members as quickly as we can is that we need to get that tuition back down to $5 or $5.70."

Certainly the increase would bring in more revenue, Albertson said, but it would also take a "real hard hit" on students.

Students currently pay $50 for a credit hour, so a three-hour course costs $150. The proposed $8 per credit hour would represent a 16 percent increase.

"Students getting Pell grants -- probably about two-thirds of our students -- it would be paid for," pointed out the board's attorney, Phil Baddour.

While the state program would absorb the increase for those students receiving Pell grants, for those not covered under that program, "that really hurts," Albertson said.

Another challenge on the horizon will come July 2011, when all community colleges must be part of the direct loan program.

"We are one of the 38 (community colleges) now that are not in, but we will be required to do so," Albertson said. "We have a year to get ourselves involved to handle the number of students with loans."

Board member Tommy Jarrett said the board had initially voted to move away from the loan program because it did not want the college to be jeopardized by penalties for failed loans.

Albertson said there are several problems associated with the return to the program -- the need for additional counselors to work with students and the potential for students defaulting on loans.

"The 25 percent ceiling for students who default is going to 40 percent," Albertson said.

The state board has been directed to take $50 million from the instructional side of the budget and move it to student services, she said.

"We don't have any choice with this," Albertson said. "We're going to see where it goes because in 2011 we are going to be back in the business of student loans."

"It seems problematic from my perspective," said board Chairman Keith Stewart. "If you take the $50 million away from the instructional side, you're robbing Peter to pay Paul.

"Two years ago, when we worried about reaching that 25 percent cap or whatever and we actually got to 19 percent of defaulted loans, it raised everybody's eyebrows. And that was in an economy that wasn't near as bad as it is now."

"The need for the loans is going to increase and the likelihood of repayments is going to decrease," Jarrett said.

Making student loans accessible for students while lacking penalties for unpaid or default loans is just asking for trouble, the board said.

"It opens the doors for people to take advantage of it," said board member Andy Evans.