Lack of state funding prompts HC tuition hikes

Faced with the high probability of more cuts in state money in its future, Howard College will raise certain tuition and fee rates this coming fall.College trustees unanimously voted in favor of the increases during their monthly meeting Monday afternoon.Howard has absorbed $2 million in cuts in state appropriations the past five years and even more are likely on the horizon — College President Dr. Cheryl Sparks said the Texas House version of the state's new budget calls for a $371,000 cut in state appropriations over the next two years.While Sparks and others are hopeful some of those cuts will be erased or at least lessened before the state budget is finalized in May, they aren't just sitting around waiting for the final result, either.Sparks proposed — and trustees approved — the following student rate hikes:• Tuition for high school students taking dual-credit courses will increase by $10 per semester hour.• Tuition for out-of-district students will increase by $5 per semester hour.• Tuition for out-of-state residents will increase by $9 per hour.• Students taking online learning courses through the college will be charged a fee of $50 for each course. That money will be set aside in a fund dedicated to online course expenses.Tuition for students residing within the junior college district will remain unchanged, she added.Those rate increases should make up for the anticipated shortfall in state appropriations, Sparks said.“All this is doing is getting us to the point where we have the same amount of money as last year,” she said. “This will not address any other expenditure issues we might face.”Those issues include a possible pay increase for employees, who have not received any raises for the past two years.“While we are not in the position to offer (salaries) that some other colleges provide, we certainly need to look at providing some sort of raise to our employees,” Sparks said. “Since 2002, their salaries have been fairly static.“Our people have been working very efficiently,” she said. “I have to applaud them. They have done a fantastic job of pulling together and making things work, even with all the cuts we've experienced the past few years.”Another issue to be faced is with infrastructure — Sparks said plumbing at the student union building needs to be addressed and concerns have arisen about the foundations at both dormitories.In other business Monday, trustees approved: • The naming of Leslie Earnst as professor emeritus at SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf.• Faculty recommendations for the next college year.• The budget for the Howard County Tax Assessor/Collector office.• Bids for computer technology in San Angelo and science equipment in Big Spring.