POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Three Rivers College Board of Trustees approved tuition increases Thursday during a special meeting that include a 4 percent bump for in-district students. The motion passed 4-2 and contains the stipulation employee jobs and student programs will not be cut in the next fiscal year due to budget restrictions.
The special meeting was scheduled with a little more than 24 hours notice to address an issue that failed during Tuesday's monthly meeting.
Students taking 12 credit hours per semester will pay between $96 and $168 more per year. This will generate almost $328,000 in revenue to address what administrators have said will be $418,000 in budget challenges for fiscal year 2013 related to increased costs for salary, insurance and utilities.
Trustees Darren Garrison and Phil Davis, who attended the meeting by phone, voted against the measure.
Davis said if meetings need to be held on short notice in the future, they need to occur in the evening so all board members can attend in person. He also cautioned the board against the habit of scheduling special meetings on topics that were already decided.
Board chairman Randy Winston said in opening the meeting a different perspective needed to be considered to address the question of tuition. He told trustees and a group of about 30 employees and residents in attendance the issue required immediate attention because of the time line related to registration for summer and fall classes.
Students from Three Rivers' taxpaying districts have the opportunity to attend for free if they qualify for the state's A+ program or the college's Raider Incentive program, Winston said. About 550 students or 13 percent of the 4,200 students who attended Three Rivers this year qualified for these programs, according to the Student Success office.
"If we increase tuition, it is not going to affect these students," he said. "It will not affect the local folks footing the bill. My recommendation is to approve what is recommended by the administration."
President Dr. Devin Stephenson presented the board with three new options that included in-district tuition increases of $2, $3 and $4. He recommended the increase not be greater than $3.
"We don't want to price ourselves out of the market," he said, adding some challenges could be absorbed in the budget process.
Trustee Ben Ressel made a motion for the $3 plan. It was seconded by Wilbur Thornton.
Starting with the summer session, tuition will increase $3 per credit hour for in- and out-of-district students, to $75 and $120 respectively, and $6 for out-of-state students to $150. Common fees will be raised $1 per credit hour.
"I want to make sure we're not going to cut any staff and we're not going to cut any programs," Ressel said prior to making the motion.
He suggested a compromise needed to be found between a tuition increase to cover all budget challenges and finding the funds either in the budget or the reserve. Trustee Randy Grassham agreed a compromise was needed.
"My vote is contingent on this, we don't cut any positions, faculty or programs," Ressel said.
Administrators presented trustees Tuesday with a list of potential cuts that included eight full-time positions and the civil engineering program, as well as reductions to student activities, athletics, tutoring and library hours.
Few specifics were available and Ressel said if cuts were to be made, he wanted to know exactly what they would be.
Davis pointed out that in the last fiscal year Three Rivers increased its reserve by $500,000, to about $4.5 million.
"Why can we not take the $418,000 out of reserve and put it in the budget as a line item?" he asked.
Thornton said he was against taking any money from the reserve.
Winston agreed, saying the reserve needs to build for unexpected costs. The college has many projects underway, he continued, including construction of a new road, which will need signage, and buildings that need renovation and repairs.
"It seems like we have mixed feelings on what the reserve is meant for," Ressel said. "I don't think we want ... to penalize students and faculty because of different feelings on what the reserve is meant for."
Garrison voted against the motion, telling Ressel he was did not want to promise no cuts would be made in the future when he did not know how circumstances might change later.
The tuition increase will help ensure the stability and advancement of the college, Stephenson said, following the meeting.
"My intention was to be very transparent with the board. To share with them what we believe the impact is going to be," he said.
The measure approved by the board was lower than one first discussed in February, which would have increased in-district tuition by $5 per credit hour, and higher than a motion made Tuesday for a $2 per credit hour bump for in-district students.
Administrators also provided information concerning the amount of money refunded after tuition costs to students who receive full Pell Awards. About 80 percent of Three Rivers' students receive some type of financial aid and 48 percent of those receive the maximum Pell Award. The refund for these students is expected to be in the 2012-2013 school year: about $1,700 in-district, $1,100 out-of-district and 800 out-of-state.
Poplar Bluff, Mo.