Committee sends proposal to full board Tuesday.
By Wally Perez
A tuition increase for in-district students was put on hold because of a lack of student input during the Audit, Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday in Killen.
According to the proposed minute order, the purpose of the increase is to unbundle the flat rate for the first six hours and move to a single tuition rate per semester credit hour for the whole schedule.
The flat rate per semester credit hour and an accompanying incentive plan ensure tuition revenues at the same level as the prior schedule.
Currently, students pay $504 for up to six credit hours, $691 for nine hours, $873 for 12 hours and $1,054 for 15 hours.
Under the proposed schedule, students would pay $258 for three hours, $516 for six hours, $774 for nine hours, $1,032 for 12 hours and $1,290 for 15 hours.
Students would see a reduction in cost of one three-hour course but would pay an additional $236 for 15 hours.
District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery and District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate led the discussion regarding the increase as well as a proposed fast completion incentive plan.
“This program will hopefully incentivize students to complete in two-three years, and we’re looking at this to save students money,” Zárate said. “Being as transparent as possible, there will be increases in tuition in certain areas.”
Zárate said this will be equitable and easier for students to understand while providing an incentive that currently isn’t in the structure.
Under the new fast completion incentive plan, students who follow a two-year plan obtain up to six credit hours in the summer if they earn a combined 24 credit hours in the fall and spring.
Students can earn three free credit hours in the summer under a three-year incentive plan, which requires 18 combined credit hours in the fall and spring.
“The summer courses are not ‘free,’” Zárate said. “They’re going to earn it; it’s almost like a scholarship.”
Kingsbery followed Zárate’s lead by supporting the student success aspect of the proposal.
“I came on board with this idea because I wanted to do something that would positively impact our students,” Kingsbery said.
Kingsbery said the current tuition schedule is not fair to students and doesn’t promote student success.
Students are projected to save $188 annually for the two-year plan and $141 annually for the three-year plan.
District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante worried for students who cannot take 18-24 hours.
“Those students who can’t take these hours are going to be paying significantly more in tuition,” Bustamante said.
“We need to think of these part-time students and how it affects them.”
Kingsbery said this is not a tuition increase across the board, and students who take one to five hours will actually see a reduction.
“The only student who doesn’t benefit from this is the six-hour student,” Kingsbery said.
“In theory, it could potentially incentivize people to only take three hours unfortunately, but it’s a reality we may have to face.”
Student trustee Emmanuel Nyong said the idea of the increase worried him at first, but after further reading, believed it to be a good idea.
Nyong said he plans to obtain input from students and the Student Government Association at Palo Alto College.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said the board needs projections on who would take advantage of this and what outcomes they would have with it.
“Once we do this, it’s going to be difficult to say, ‘oh we screwed up,’ so we need to be certain going forward that this is going to be a success,” McClendon said.
McClendon said he wants to see some degree of enthusiasm from students before they move this forward.
“I’m just concerned about its effectiveness; we need the students’ voice on it,” McClendon said.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the increase and incentive proposal are a positive approach they should take.
“We can’t project how many students will take advantage of it, but now, we have a personal advising system to help students,” Leslie said.
“To hold this off because maybe a few students can’t take advantage of it — when we can expect a large percentage of students to be able to — holds us back from our potential in growing our degrees,” he said.
Board Chair Yvonne Katz said there needed to be more data and the board has to come to a consensus on the program to bring it forward at the October meeting.
Katz asked Leslie to speak with the presidents and vice presidents to pull together the students at their colleges — those who are taking all ranges of hours — and discuss the tuition plan.
District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas said it was the best idea he had heard all night after agreeing with fellow trustees to get more student feedback.
In other business, an out-of-district tuition reduction was moved forward to the regular board meeting Tuesday.
According to the proposed minute order, the purpose of the decrease is to balance the tuition rate for out-of-district students, which will take effect in fall 2017.
Under the new rates, students who take three to six credit hours will see a decrease from $1,231 to $1,184.
Nine credit hours will drop from $1,781 to $1,624; 12 hours will drop from $2,327 to $2,052; and 15 hours will drop from $2,872 to $2,477.
The proposed decrease for out-of-district students also would go into effect in fall 2017 and is projected to result in an increase of 724 out-of-district students to the current 4,817.
In an interview after the meeting, President Robert Vela said he hadn’t consulted students on the tuition increase as it was a direct charge from administration to work on.
“We want to incentivize students to take more classes,” Vela said. “The more classes you take, the better you’re rewarded in the summer.”
Vela said he’s going to take the idea to the Student Government Association and create student focus groups to get their input on the proposal.