Costing more to learn

Aug. 05, 2013 @ 08:06 PM

The head of Randolph Community College, where GOP Gov. Pat McCrory signed his first bill six months ago on education, is warning of unwelcome consequences for his school because of the recent Republican state budget.
RCC President Robert Shackleford Jr. said the community college system portion of the budget will lead to higher costs for courses and probably cutbacks in classes.
The budget includes a $2.50 per credit hour tuition increase for community college curriculum students and a continuing education registration fee increase of $5 per course, Shackleford said. The budget also repeals the senior citizen tuition waiver for community college courses.
Shackleford maintains that community colleges overall will lose 1.6 percent in the state budget, a contention countered by a Republican leader in the General Assembly.
A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, justified the Republican appropriation for community colleges. McCrory’s office didn’t provide a comment to The High Point Enterprise, but was copied on an email response from Berger’s office.
“Our budget increased funding for community colleges by over 3 percent, spending $31 million more than the budget we passed last year,” said Berger spokeswoman Shelly Carver.
But Shackleford said the net result of the state budget is a 1.6 percent reduction for community colleges.
“It’s a compounded effect,” Shackleford said. “Between 2008 and 2012, our per-student funding has decreased 21 percent while enrollment increased 26 percent.”
The time frame Shackleford references of 2008-12 covers periods when Democrats and Republicans each controlled the General Assembly and governor’s office.
At RCC, the college will focus on cutting programs or courses that are more personal interest classes, such as the small engine repair continuing education classes that have recently been discontinued, Shackleford said. Low enrollment programs will also be reviewed.
Shackleford said RCC took previous steps to deal with less net revenue, such as increasing the number of courses each faculty member teaches and reviewing expenditures for equipment, supplies and travel.
The head of Davidson County Community College expressed similar concerns.
“For our community, this may mean they won’t see all the courses at all the times we’ve offered them in the past. However, we want them to know that we’re committed to making these decisions thoughtfully and judicially,” said DCCC President Mary Rittling.
DCCC will examine course offerings, class sizes, staffing levels and campus operations, Rittling said. She estimates that DCCC will lose $400,000 because of the new state budget.
Guilford Technical Community College President Randy Parker said increases in tuition and course fees and repeal of the senior citizen tuition waiver will affect the ability to pay for some students.
“Here at Guilford Tech, we have over 12,000 students getting financial aid. The more they have to pay out in tuition, the less they will be able to have to put gas in their car or do what else they need to do,” Parker said.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528