Three Rivers College tuition won't increase

Thursday, April 12, 2012

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A motion to increase tuition and common fees at Three Rivers College failed Tuesday at the board of trustees monthly meeting for lack of a second.

Bills for full-time students taking 12 credit hours would have increased between $72 and $144 per year under a new proposal recommended by administration. This is less than half the increase originally discussed in February.

President Dr. Devin Stephenson expressed disappointment in the failed motion following the meeting, saying the administration will have significant challenges in presenting a promised balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins June 1.

The higher fees would have generated about $245,000 to offset what administrators say are $418,000 in budget challenges for fiscal year 2013 related to increased costs for salary, insurance and utilities.

"That budget will definitely contain cuts of services and personnel, but we will respond accordingly and continue our work to fulfill the mission of this institution," Stephenson said, confirming that eight full-time positions and the civil engineering program are among the items that may be cut.

The motion made by Wilbur Thornton would have increased per credit hour tuition by $2, or 2.8 percent, to $74 for in-district; $2, or 1.7 percent, to $119 for out-of-district; $4, or 2.8 percent, to $148 for out-of-state. Common fees would have gone up $1 to $18, a 5.9 percent increase.

Thornton noted before making the motion that Three Rivers has not raised tuition in three years and the proposal would also increase the funds received from the state A+ program, which pays tuition and common fees for qualifying students.

Chairman Randy Winston said he did not know of anything else that has not gone up in the last three years and the college needs to look at the tuition every year.

Trustee Darren Garrison argued higher tuition takes money out of students' pockets, regardless of whether they receive other types of financial aid, such as Pell grants or scholarships.

"We've stayed constant the last three or four years and our budgets have only gotten better and better," Garrison said. "There's a chance we could have $418,000 to the good this budget because we budget conservatively."

Monthly financial reports are always positive, he said. The April report showed Three Rivers is 75 percent of the way into its current budget year and has collected 97 percent or about $20.4 million of projected revenue. About 77 percent of budgeted expenses or about $15.9 million have been realized.

"I know you have painted a worst-case scenario [for cuts]. … and I, as a board member, appreciate having all the numbers in front of me to decide," Garrison said. "But I'm halfway betting on our budget process without any of that."

Garrison indicated he would be in favor of drawing from reserves, which have grown in recent years, to delay a tuition increase for a year.

It is incumbent upon the college to plan for the future when it can, Stephenson responded.

"You dip into reserves for unplanned catastrophic crisis," he said, adding later, "I think failure to provide any type of increase and stabilizing income … will negatively impact this college. Failure to provide any incentive to us to minimize these cuts is going to be drastic."

Cuts could include eight full-time positions and the civil engineering program, which has about a dozen students enrolled, according to a list presented by administrators. Stephenson promised current students in the civil engineering program would be given the opportunity to complete their degrees, if it is among the items lost.

In addition to an open civil engineering faculty position, other positions lost could include special events staff, athletic events/facilities manager, off-campus center facilitator and library secretary.

Other potential cuts identified are: reduction in library hours; reduction in the number of tutors; longer wait times and slower paperwork processing times for students; elimination of continuing education and student life/activities; deferral of critical maintenance (including repairs to the roof of the Tinnin Fine Arts Center); reduction of the number of public safety officers (one currently open position of five existing slots would not be filled); and reduction of nonconference athletic travel.

A secondary list of other considerations discussed capping enrollment, a hiring freeze, further reducing programs and services and eliminating selected athletic programs.

More specifics about the possible cuts that have been identified were not available. The budget process for the next fiscal year begins in the next month, Stephenson said.

Map of pertinent addresses

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