Feeling pressure from school districts, the Gila Community College board Wednesday reversed its decision to alter the tuition schedule.
Instead of charging $88 a credit hour, the board reverted to its former schedule, which gives a discount to students taking between two and six credit hours.
Still needing to fill a $630,000 deficit, the board agreed to tack a 25 percent increase on tuition and charge seniors 60 and older 25 percent of the $88.
The new schedule should bring in an additional $350,000 with additional money coming from charging seniors partial tuition.
The total will likely still fall short of covering the deficit, board member Tom Loeffler said.
Senior Dean Stephen Cullen said he hopes additional enrollment will make up the difference.
In May, the board approved Loeffler’s dramatically new tuition schedule.
Instead of charging $84.50 per unit for the first three units, no additional charge for the next three units, then $84.50 per unit from 7 to 12 with extra classes effectively free, Loeffler proposed charging a flat rate of $88 per credit hour.
This, along with charging seniors 25 percent, Loeffler predicted would bring in an additional $616,000.
After some persuasion, the rest of the board agreed with Loeffler’s plan.
However, two days after passing the new schedule, Cullen said the college received e-mails and calls against the new plan.
Payson Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Casey O’Brien wrote that the new schedule would have “a significant negative impact on dual enrollment for both NAVIT (Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology) satellite programs and our academic classes.”
GCC works with PUSD, NAVIT and the Cobre Valley Institute of Technology to offer high school students college credit while they are still in school.
Of the 164 students who graduated from Payson High School in May, 100 had received dual credit from GCC.
In the past several years, new dual enrollment programs have been added and more students have taken advantage tage of the opportunity to earn college credit. O’Brien warned this arrangement would “very likely change” if GCC went with a new tuition schedule. O’Brien even stated PUSD would search for a new community college if the changes stayed in place.
NAVIT Superintendent Matt Weber echoed similar remarks in a letter to the board.
Facing $1.5 million in capital cuts next year, Weber said it would be impossible to continue the program with GCC’s new plan.
Not wanting to lose its relationship with vocational and school districts, GCC Board Chair Robert Ashford motioned to re-adopt the original tuition schedule with a 25 percent increase tacked on.
Board member Armida Bittner agreed with Ashford and added Loeffler’s plan could negatively affect part-time adult students.
As a part-time student once, Bittner said she could not have afforded to take classes if it were not for the 2-6 credit block.
More than 51 percent of GCC’s students are part time, Bittner said.
Before voting on Ashford’s plan, member Larry Stevenson asked if they could look at other options, but Ashford said with a motion already made, they could not.
Stevenson said he did not like Ashford’s plan because it meant the college was shouldering the burden of PUSD and NAVIT.
“We are accommodating them at our expense,” he said.
Cullen suggested if the board did approve Ashford’s tuition schedule, that the board re-evaluate its impact on enrollment 45 days after adoption.
Ashford agreed with this idea.
Stevenson worried with Ashford’s plan the board would likely have to make cuts to programs and staff to make up for the rest of the shortfall.
However, with Ashford, Bittner and member Bernadette Kniffin for the plan, it passed 3-2.
The 25 percent increase goes into effect July 1.