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State Budget Shortfall Prompts PCC Tuition Increase
Photos and Story by James Hill
PORTLAND, Ore. – The board of directors of Portland Community College, facing college budget cuts of approximately $2.3 million annually, voted Thursday night to increase tuition by $5 per credit hour to $45 per credit hour beginning summer term, 2002. The board next month is expected to also increase the technology fee by $.50 per credit hour (an increase from $2.50 to $3.) for the first 15 credits.The new tuition rate will bring the annual bill for a full-time student (15 credits) to $2025. This is approximately a 13 percent increase in tuition for a full-time student. Tuition at community colleges around Oregon ranges from $38 to $50 per credit hour."The board is striving to keep tuition as low as we possibly can while still providing high-quality education to our residents. We know that many students are struggling right now to afford college, and that any increase will be tough. It’s a balancing act for all of us to manage cuts, services and revenue increases,"said Mike Hereford, board chair. "In essence, by cutting funding for community colleges, the state is saying that if people want services, they need to pay for them. The legislature expects community colleges to continue to keep our doors wide open so that people can access education and training, but makes it more difficult for low and middle income people to squeeze through those doors. Believe me, the board is sympathetic to the dilemma our students are facing,"he added. Hereford added that enrollment at PCC continues to skyrocket. The college has had five- and one-half years of enrollment growth, but state funding increases have not kept pace with PCC’s rate of growth. The cuts in state funding to PCC and other community colleges across the state range from 3.6 to 4.5 percent. PCC now receives 55 percent of its revenue from state sources, 25 percent from tuition and 16 percent from local property taxes. The remainder comes from federal funds, grants and other sources.The college is proposing a 2002-03 budget based on the reduced state support of 4.5 percent, or $2.3 million annually. The proposed general fund budget is $119 million. The college has cut its budget by more than $1 million by reductions in its equipment, travel and supplies budget, deferring planned maintenance, and not filling open faculty and staff positions. The reductions and revenue increases are needed not only to meet the state shortfall, but also to cover the increasing utility and technology costs."We are taking a long-range look at our budget needs,"said PCC President Jesus "Jess"Carreon. "That means we will maintain adequate cash reserves, that we will hire new faculty, and that we will continue to invest in our instructional programs. We are committed to maintaining an excellent instructional program for our students." The president also told the board that the college will have to discuss in depth the issue of growth and how PCC will handle it in the future. "The infrastructure is stretched to the maximum right now,"Carreon said. "I’m not sure how many more terms of double-digit growth we can support without additional help from the state."The college is the state’s largest post-secondary institution, enrolling almost 100,000 full- and part-time students annually in both credit and non-credit courses. Approximately 47,000 students take credit classes at PCC each year.