Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Commonly Asked Questions and Answers About Tuition and Fees

Who sets the tuition and fees rates at Virginia’s Community Colleges?

The State Board for Community Colleges establishes the tuition and fee rates that are charged throughout Virginia’s Community Colleges. Typically, the board decides those rates at its regular May meeting every year to go in effect for the upcoming fall semester.

How much are the tuition and fees at Virginia’s Community Colleges?

For the 2011-2012 Academic Year:

• $119: In-state tuition and mandatory fees per credit hour (not including unique college-specific fees).

• $3,570: In-state tuition and mandatory fees for a full-time student.

• 8.7 percent: The in-state tuition increase, in percentage, for the 2011-2012 academic year.

• $310.16: Out-of-state tuition and mandatory fees per credit hour.

How much of an increase are students facing for the coming year?

The increase in tuition and mandatory fees equals $9.50 per credit hour (8.7 percent). For an in-state student, that translates into an increase of $28.50 for a three-hour class or $285 for the year for a full-time in-state student.

How many out-of-state students do Virginia’s Community Colleges serve?

Out-of-state students make up seven percent of the enrollment of the entire Virginia Community College System.

Is the tuition rate the same at every Virginia Community College?

Tuition and mandatory fees are consistent at the vast majority of Virginia’s Community Colleges. Tuition differentials have been approved by the State Board for two colleges: Northern Virginia Community College and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The State Board agreed to increase the tuition differential rate for Northern Virginia Community College for 2011-2012 by $2.80 per credit hour – bringing the differential total to $17.15 per credit hour. Even with the differential, NVCC’s tuition remains the lowest in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

The board made no change for 2011-2012 to the tuition differential rate for J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, leaving the existing differential total at $2.10 per credit hour.

Didn’t the Governor and the General Assembly just increase higher education funding this year?

While Virginia’s Community Colleges did receive more money in the state budget this past year, those funds largely served to reduce the size of the cut the VCCS faced in the two-year budget.

The budget approved by the General Assembly and Governor Bob McDonnell during the 2011 legislative session included $4.6 million more from the state’s General Fund for general operating costs – including $1.9 million for base adequacy funding and $2.7 million for the operating costs for new facilities coming online. An additional $5.4 million was approved in the budget for Virginia’s Community Colleges to hire additional full-time faculty to improve the colleges’ full-time to part-time faculty ratio.

Even with the additional funding in the 2011 Appropriation Act, the amended FY 2012 general fund appropriation for the VCCS E&G budget will be $25.5 million or 7.5 percent less than the FY 2011 level. By FY 2012, the VCCS will have lost a total of $95 million in state funding since the recent rounds of cuts started in 2008.

Why are the tuition and fees being raised at Virginia’s Community Colleges?

The approved increase in tuition and mandatory fees is needed to meet the goals of the State Board financial plan and support community college enrollment growth; expand science, teaching, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs; provide new facility operating costs; fill select vacant positions; and cover the inflationary costs of utilities and general expenses.

Enrollment growth: While enrollment growth generates additional revenue, the current tuition and fee rate of $3,285 is only about half the cost of providing services to the student. Even with the additional general fund support approved in the 2011 General Assembly Session, funding per FTE in FY 2012 is projected to drop by over 6 percent.

Technology funding: A Technology Funding Model is used to quantify the costs at the colleges of updating and maintaining technology investments needed to meet standards. The model allocates available funds from the student technology fee (which is $6.50 per credit hour in FY 2011), general fund support, and the Equipment Trust Fund. Even with the dedicated support, the Model was only funded at 44 percent of calculated need in FY 2011. This year, the national average for technology fees for all institutions is $8.00 per credit hour. The Virginia FY 2012 student technology fee is $7.50 per credit hour.

STEM program expansion: In accordance with the Chancellor’s annual goals and the VCCS Six-year strategic plan, Achieve 2015, at least ten new STEM programs are being created across Virginia’s Community Colleges.

New facility operating costs: A total of 17 new VCCS buildings are scheduled to come on-line in the 2012 biennium. The total cost for operating the new facilities in FY 2012 will be $5.5 million. The VCCS will receive $2.7 million from the state general fund to offset part of the costs. Tuition revenue will provide the remaining portion.

Doesn’t the extra money community colleges get from having more students mean they really don’t need to raise tuition?

Over the past four years, enrollment at Virginia’s Community Colleges has increased by more than 48,000 students. While enrollment growth generates additional revenue, the 2010-2011 tuition and fee rate of $3,285 is only about half the cost of providing services to the student. Even with the additional general fund support approved in the 2011 General Assembly Session, funding per FTE in FY 2012 is projected to drop by over 6 percent.

What public reaction are you expecting to the tuition and fees increase?

Even with recent tuition increases, Virginians still find the community colleges to be affordable. In a 2010 statewide survey conducted for the VCCS by the VCU Center for Public Policy, Perceptions of the Community College: A Study of Virginians’ Attitudes, 72 percent of the respondents said that tuition costs at the community colleges are affordable. Over three –fourths of those surveyed (76 percent) felt that the community colleges offer a good value for the money.

Why has Germanna’s tuition gone up so much?

As our enrollment has grown about 30 percent over the last three years, the state has cut our funding by about 30 percent over the same period. Affordability is critical part of our mission. The essence of what we do is making quality higher education accessible to everyone. Germanna's tuition and fees will always be a bargain compared to four-year schools and will always be in comparable to or lower in cost than other community colleges in Virginia.

Doesn't my tuition cover all the costs of my classes?

At Germanna, Tuition pays for 54% and state appropriations 46%. In the past, the state paid more than the students.

What are you doing to help students afford college at Germanna?

We are adding nearly $100,000 in additional financial aid in 2011-12 for those who do not qualify for full federal financial aid

We are running campaigns to raise more donor contributions for scholarships and the Germanna Guarantee Program, which is intended to help any student with costs that could prevent them from enrolling and for which no other aid is available.

We have made a concerted effort to get as many to apply for the FAFSFA as possible and have increased the percentage of students who apply and qualify.

We have also begun Stafford loans as a last resort.

What is the new auxiliary fee?

The auxiliary fee approved by the General Assembly provides for $5.50 per credit hour towards building development and maintenance fee. The parking fee of $1.25 per credit hour continues to maintain all other current lots and sidewalks. The new fee amounts to an additional $82.50 per semester for a student taking 15 credit hours, or $165 for a student taking 30 credit hours per year.

Germanna's current tuition and fee rate for in-state students is $109.75 per credit hour, including current total in-state student fees of $8.75 per hour.

What is the fee for?

It is for those things not covered by state funding but necessary and beneficial to students, including parking decks and student centers, lunch rooms and cafeterias.

The initial use will be for a new parking deck at the Fredericksburg Area Campus in Spotsylvania. It is already difficult to find parking spaces at FAC, which is our busiest location, with 6,000 students, faculty members and staff. The estimated $6.2 million parking deck will add 350 new spaces at the Fredericksburg Campus, which now has 1,079 spaces. Both the deck and the new third academic building at FAC are expected to be completed by the Fall of 2012.

While we prefer to not to raise the costs of attending at any time--especially during these difficult times---, parking is already inadequate and will only get worse. The new lot at FAC will bring us to where we should have been a year ago. When the new building opens in 2012, unless we add a parking deck, the only option would be carpooling or taking the bus. Without the deck, we might well have to turn students away.

Why can't some other source of funding payment be used?

The state cannot legally appropriate money for parking decks and other facilities including student centers, cafeterias, lunch rooms and game rooms. Nor is Germanna Community College permitted to use tuition dollars for such facilities.

Donors and Foundations generally will not give money to pay for parking decks. Understandably, they prefer to donate for academic buildings or scholarships. Supporting such things provide a greater sense of satisfaction. And who wants to be remembered for having a parking deck named after them?

Local governments contribute only about $40,000 a year to operating costs and have had budget woes due to the economic downturn. We continue to seek their support for a building development fund but this would likely go towards site work for new academic buildings, another item that cannot be paid through state bonds or appropriations.

We need a steady and verifiable revenue stream to borrow against to build. Therefore, future parking sticker fees or entrance fees will not work. They also cause an extra cost of enforcement and production that would increase the overall cost for parking higher by about $100,000 a year.

Why do Distance Learning students have to pay?

State policy requires that all students pay such mandatory fees regardless of their means of attending.

Most Distance Learning students also take on-site classes and/or use services, library, registration, events etc.

Some colleges charge a Distance Learning fee to cover computing, software and tech support---we do not-but all students pay a tech fee and tuition covers the rest.

Why do students at other locations have to pay?

State policy requires that all students pay such mandatory fees regardless of their location.

We will inevitably have to expand at other locations such as the Stafford Center, and when we do, students attending the Fredericksburg Campus will pay auxiliary fees to cover that cost.

Long-range plans include parking decks and student centers at all of our permanent locations.

Why should current students have to pay for parking for students who come later?

Fees paid by past students paid the parking maintenance fee that previously expanded Fredericksburg. If we were to wait until a facility were built and then charge current students real costs, the fees would be so high as to be unaffordable.

While there is no perfectly fair way to charge, this is as close as we can get.

Is the fee permanent?

Some part of it for maintenance will be necessary to continue on a permanent basis. If area population growth slows or stabilizes at some point and there is no need for new decks or student centers, or if state rules change, the fee can be reduced.

Can it be used for salaries or other expenses?

No. By law, this fee can only for approved facilities which the state is not allowed to fund.

What do you do with any leftover fee money?

If there is a surplus, it can be banked, earn interest and then be used for future maintenance and the overall fee reduced accordingly.

Do other Virginia CCs have such a fee?

Tidewater Community College garage parking fee for school year at Norfolk Campus - $50; in 2010-11 total tuition and fees $143.85 per credit hour.

Northern Virginia Community College parking fee for school year-$150; in 2010-11 total tuition and fees $135.25 per credit hour.

How does Germanna’s costs compare with that of nearby community colleges and the University of Mary Washington charge for tuition and fees per credit hour?

Decals for street parking near UMW's Fredericksburg Campus are $200 for the year. Eagle Landing Parking Deck and decal is $550 for the year. UMW's 2010 tuition for its College of Arts and Sciences is $156 per credit hour plus other fees of $101 per credit hour for a total of $257 per credit hour. UMW just announced a 12% increase.

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