College Board Balks Again At Fee Proposal

Debate centers on whether to impose class fees to cover cost of materials in certain classes

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Gila Community College students may soon face an extra $10 fee for every class.

Then again, maybe not.

The GCC board grappled with the thorny issue once again, but flinched from a decision.

The board last November had tentatively decided to impose the $10 fee on all classes to pay for extra materials needed for some classes, including art and nursing.

However, the issue got lost in the confusion about meeting schedules, health problems for board members and missed meetings.

But the issue bobbed back to the surface last week at the January board meeting, with mixed results.

Board member Tom Loeffler said the college may have to impose some fees to cope with looming budget problems, but shouldn’t impose across-the-board fees.

For instance, he said students in the nursing program that provides a financial pillar for the whole college already pay class fees as high as $150 to cover the cost of IVs bandages, dressings and other “consumables.”

A draft of suggested fees include $50 for pottery classes, $75 for welding, electrical and computer classes, $25 for chemistry and biology and $10 to $20 for Photoshop and computer classes.

But board member Bob Ashford opposed any fees.

“My personal feeling is our students are already feed enough. We’ve raised their tuition and I think that’s enough. We should have absolutely no course fee — and $10 per class — absolutely no way that should happen.”

The proposal to add fees came last year in the wake of a rough budget year, with a $630,000 deficit, a 35 percent cut in state support, a big increase in tuition and a 14 percent increase in the local property tax rate.

Tuition provides about a third of the district’s budget, with the rest coming from local property taxes, state support and grants.

GCC Dean Stephen Cullen said of the proposed fees “it would be a great revenue stream, but our courses pencil out in the black and if they don’t, we don’t offer them. It’s a tough decision and I’ll stand by whatever the board decides.”

“I just don’t see it with the way the economy is,” said board member Armida Bittner.

But Loeffler retorted, “If courses are penciling out in the black, I don’t know why employees are taking a 10 percent cut in furloughs and adjuncts aren’t being paid what they’re worth. Why should we be paying $50 for a student’s clay? We need to look at the needs of this college.”

GCC’s part-time faculty, who teach the great majority of courses in Payson, make about half as much as they would if they taught the same course at someplace like Mesa Community College.

“Why should a student in an English class in effect subsidize a student in an art class?” asked president Larry Stephenson.

Ultimately, the board decided to defer a decision on fees until the administration can provide more information on the costs of materials used in different courses and how much such fees might yield.

Moreover, the college’s budget picture remains murky. In part, that reflects the ongoing uncertainty about the state budget. But the confusion also stems from the financial information Eastern Arizona College provides to the district under the terms of its contract.

Most of the GCC employees actually work for EAC, which also charges GCC a 25 percent overhead fee on everything it spends. Some GCC board members have complained about the lack of clear financial information from EAC, even in response to specific board requests.

The board directed the staff to come back with cost and revenue estimates based on various fees.

Newly elected board president Larry Stephenson concluded the discussion with a compliment to the board, which has spent the past two years bitterly divided into different factions.

“I appreciate that we can have a civil discussion for this sort of an item,” he said.

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