HFCC Board discusses budget, tuition hike

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Several financial matters were discussed at the August 19 Henry Ford Community College Board of Trustees meeting, including the college’s recent amnesty program, a millage renewal and an explanation on how the school expects to have its expenses back in the black this year.

Entering the 2013-14 fiscal year, which began July 1, HFCC announced that it was anticipating a deficit of $16.6 million. At the Aug. 19 meeting, HFCC President Stan Jensen told the board that the college expects to have a positive balance of $1.4 million by the end of the year.

“Thanks to sacrifices made by leadership, faculty and staff, along with other cost-efficiencies, we are beginning to see our way through our financial challenges and hopefully to better days ahead,” Jensen said

Jensen said the college has cut spending by about $1 million, worked to lower its bad debt by $4 million, laid off administrators and re-negotiated contracts with faculty and staff. A re-negotiation with the teacher’s Local 1650 union is expected to save the school $5.7 million this year.

It also ended its Lifelong Learning Program on July 1 and implemented an amnesty program for former students. The amnesty program allowed those who owed the college money from books or tuition to pay back their debts at a reduced rate.

Originally slated to end Aug. 14, the amnesty program was extended until Aug. 28 because of interest in the initiative.

HFCC Vice President for Student Affairs Lisa Copprue told the board that 327 students have taken advantage of the program, yielding about $93,000 for the college. Of those 327, 65 have registered for classes in the Fall 2013 semester.

Two other items discussed at the meeting were the possible raising of tuition beginning in the Winter 2014 semester and the language of the proposed millage renewal and hike.

HFCC Vice President of Financial Services John Satkowski told the board that the college is proposing to amend tuition prices by raising the per credit hour cost from $82 to $87 for residents, $142 to $149.25 for non-residents and from $147 to $154.25 for out-of-state and international students.

“Even if we raise tuition costs, we are still toward the bottom in terms of per credit hour cost compared to the other 28 community colleges in the state,” Satkowski said.

Tuition at HFCC has gone from $57 per credit hour in 2003 to its current $82, while the average cost at other state community colleges has risen from $56.76 to $85.91 in that same period.

HFCC also currently has the eighth-lowest tuition rate for out-of-district students.
Satkowski said that if the tuition increases are approved they could generate $900,000 for the college.

Jensen said that a tuition hike would help combat the lower revenue the college will receive due to a drop in enrollment, which is down nearly 30 percent for the upcoming semester.

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved the language of the proposed millage renewal and increase that the college wants placed on the November general election ballots in Dearborn and part of Dearborn Heights.

The ballot proposal calls for 4 mills, with 1 mill of that being new taxes. The other 3 mills will be two renewals that are set to expire in December 2014. One part is a 2.5 mill levy that is renewable every 10 years and the other is a .5 mill levy that is
renewable every five years. The two levies generate $10 million annually for the college.

Jensen said that the extra mill will help the college add to its depleted fund balance to prevent a similar financial struggle like it had been facing while HFCC Board President Pam Adams said that the board could decide not to collect the extra revenue in the future if the college was in a better financial position, but that the revenue presently needed.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)