The Pueblo campus of Gila Community College (GCC) located in Globe reports a 15 percent increase in enrollment since the board voted to lower tuition rates and reinstate free senior tuition at its July meeting.
Other campuses in the district, including Payson, report a 6.3 percent overall increase in enrollment.
“But how many seniors are included in those numbers (and) is that a good thing?” asked Larry Stephenson, GCC board president, who represents the college district in northern Gila County.
So upset over this issue that he resigned, Tom Loeffler, former GCC board member, left shortly after the board had a split vote because of the decision.
During the meeting Loeffler asked if the request to lower tuition had any research behind it and southern member Sam Moorehead said no.
In his resignation letter, Loeffler wrote, “I and others see no way the college can remain viable if this type of irresponsible decision making continues. Already the staff is thinking that furloughs will have to be established again. Positions were cut out of the budget that began this July 1 and more will have to follow if my projections are accurate. With this type of action based on no facts, I currently see no bright future for the community college.”
Stephenson said that reporting tuition increases without also reporting the finances does not tell the whole story.
“At our last monthly meeting, the financial report showed tuition revenue is down 8 percent over projections,” he said, “It’s always a balancing act between enrollment and finances.”
Before lowering tuition, the GCC board had increased tuition to cover the costs of declining enrollment.
A press release from GCC does not indicate if the majority of those enrolling are seniors or if younger students swell the ranks.
Stephenson said that is the question that needs to be asked and answered because the college cannot cover costs if most of the students are free seniors.
The Legislature provides state support based on the number of “full time equivalent students” (FTES), which comes to 30 credit hours.
The state pays $410 for each FTES.
That works out to $13.67 per credit covered by the state, according to numbers provided by Susan Gallo, who prepares monthly financial reports for the board.
That means the state would pay the district $840 for a three-credit class with 20 students, which is generally less than the district pays its adjunct instructors — GCC does pay its part-time faculty about 50 percent less than Mesa Community College.
The Globe campus has seen an added boost in enrollment because they offer a popular course to certify students as cosmetologists and nail technicians — Payson does not.
In its press release, the Globe campus also touted two new programs under development, medical coding and billing, and building/construction trades.
Stephenson has concerns about the enrollment numbers.
“Enrollment is good, but I would prefer for us to be financially stable,” he said.
The next GCC board meeting will be at 1 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17. Rim Country residents may watch the meeting at the GCC campus in Payson.
For more information, please call (928) 468-8039.