by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College’s Board of Trustees approved the institution’s 2012-2013 operational and capital budgets on June 18 during the board’s monthly meeting.
The budget, which reflects the $5.25 million cut announced by the Montgomery County Commissioners on June 6, calls for an increase of $9 per credit hour for in-county residents, along with a $1 increase in fees, for a total percentage increase of 8 percent. This brings the cost of one, three-credit course to $405 for in-county residents, and it brings the annual cost for full-time students to $3,240 (12 credits/semester) or $4,050 (15 credits/semester).
“The Board recognizes that the College cannot offset a 25 percent budget cut from the County on the backs of our students, and that any increase in tuition serves as a barrier to higher education,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president. “The Board – and the entire College community – remains committed to preserving our mission of student access and success and upholding the values on which the College was founded.”
With the increase, student tuition will comprise more than 55 percent of the College’s operational budget, compared to only 36 percent a decade ago. Meanwhile, the County’s contribution has fallen to less than 20 percent of the overall budget, and its investment per student resident has been cut in half over the last decade.
Despite the increase, the College’s tuition is positioned below the median rate when compared to other community colleges in the Commonwealth and is the lowest rate among community colleges in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region.
On Monday, the Board also approved the College’s 2012-2013 $7.8 million capital budget, which is comprised of existing debt service and leases and includes obligated county and state funding of $3.3 and $3.4 million, respectively.
The approved budgets incorporate a combination of measures to offset the funding deficit, including elimination of high cost/low enrolled programs, careful management of personnel costs, efficient scheduling management, and continued identification of opportunities for cost containment.
The operating budget is also built on the anticipated restoration of the proposed state budget cut. With this restoration, funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania comprises approximately 24 percent of the College’s 2012-2013 operational budget.
The College will also pursue entrepreneurial and public/private partnership opportunities that can be self-sustaining or revenue generating. The College’s new Culinary Arts Institute, along with its Lively Arts Series and Children’s Center, are successful models of this approach.
“The Board’s outstanding stewardship of College resources over the past 46 years puts us in a position of financial strength and enables us to keep going in spite of these devastating cuts. However, if this erosion of public funding continues, the future landscape of higher education in Montgomery County will look significantly different,” said Dr. Stout.
During the meeting, Board Chairman Michael J. D’Aniello appointed a new ad hoc committee “for the development of future funding strategies.” The committee is charged with providing an historical perspective of legislative authority and community college funding, and with developing a series of strategies to preserve and enhance the College’s financial ability to meet its mission. The committee will meet August through November.