After hearing about the possibility of raising tuition and instituting incremental tuition for its popular health programs in February , the Weatherford College Board of Trustees voted to approve new rates on Thursday.
Tuition for in-district students will increase by $4 per semester credit hour or 5 percent. Tuition for out-of-district students increases by $6 per semester credit hour, also 5 percent. Out-of-district WC Wise County students will increase by $6 per semester credit hour (6 percent) and out-of-district ECG students increases by $6 per semester credit hour (6 percent). Out-of-state rates increase 2 percent ($3) per semester credit hour.
Other fees will be increasing as well. For example, at the library, a lost book processing fine will now be $20 instead of $10. The TEAS test will be $60 (up from $50) to cover increases in the direct expense plus administrative costs.
The college will also start charging an ACH refund return fee of $5 to cover the cost for all student refund direct deposits that are returned due to incorrect banking information provided by the student. A new student print/copier charge is also being implemented of 10 cents per page for black and white and 15 cents per page for color. At February’s meeting, the charge was explained as necessary because of the increased amount of printing by students and the cost of ink and maintenance.
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When it comes to housing, room and board will increase by $25 for both 10-meal and 19-meal plans and a lost slide key replacement will now cost students $50 instead of $25. Cantrell said the school is hoping the charge will deter students from “giving” their key to someone else so they can have access to the dorms as has been happening on occasion.
It was also recommended in February that although there had not been adequate information gathered to make a recommendation regarding differential tuition that the administration would continue to pursue this type of tuition.
After conducting a cost analysis of program costs for all programs of the college, administration did recommend charging an additional tuition of $20 per semester credit hour for programs in the Allied Health area that are more costly for the school to offer. Estimated increased revenue for differential tuition would be $174,340.
Examples of factors making these classes more costly to offer include: class size requirements of accrediting agencies; expensive equipment that must be regularly updated to meet industry standards; facilities and high-cost faculty. The administration recommended starting with the Allied Health programs due to their extensive student waiting lists and also the fact that they will be moving into a new facility with state-of-the-art equipment this fall when the Don Allen Allied Health Building opens.
“We are not proposing at this time to charge the actual costs of the classes in the Allied Health program, we just want to close the gap a little bit at this time,” said Andra Cantrell, vice president of financial and administrative affairs. “We want to continue to analyze these programs as well as other high cost technical programs and phase these courses in over time.”
Research of other schools who have charged a differential tuition for a few years now say that their experience has been a success, Cantrell said. Community colleges in Texas currently charging differential tuition and fees are Alamo College, Northeast Texas Community College, Lone Star College and Odessa.
Board secretary/treasurer Dr. Luke Haynes, who owns a physical therapy practice in Weatherford, spoke of the high demand of the programs and asked why the college would only ask for such a small increase when some of the programs are losing upwards of more that $150 per semester credit hour.
“We don’t want to scare off students,” WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton said in response. “Even with an increase, we are still a third of the cost of a university. You may have five or 10 less applicants, but we will have no problem filling our programs.”
Cantrell backed this statement, adding that most of the programs have double or triple the applicants than what are accepted due to restricted class sizes.
Also approved at the meeting was a five-year, 50 percent tax abatement for a 40-acre development on BB Fielder Road near Bethel Road. Ten acres of the land will be home to KEG1, a distribution company moving from Mineral Wells. The new business will generate about 100 new jobs. The other 30 acres will be developed as a business park, said Dennis Clayton, City of Weatherford Director of Economic Development.
“This is great for [KEG1] and us,” Clayton said after explaining that the city itself was giving the business a 90 percent tax abatement for the first five years and incrementally reducing it over the next few years after that.
City manager Jerry Blaisdell had originally approached the college about the possibility of the abatement in September and after it was revised, finalized and approved by city council, the agreement was brought to the college for consideration. At the September meeting, Board Chairman Frank Martin had asked if there was any possibility of work for part-time students and a partnership with the school’s truck driving academy.
On Thursday, both of those were confirmed and Eaton said KEG1 had already been in contact with college staff about possible job placements and availability.
In other business, the board:
• Heard a presentation from Dan McIntosh, Parker County Livestock Improvement Association (PCLIA) President, regarding a long-term lease of college property located off Highway 180 west of Weatherford. McIntosh said PCLIA had been looking to build its own facility to host events since it had outgrown its current space at the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse grounds. PCLIA is seeking a lease of 6 acres from the college.
“We’ve been at the Posse grounds for 65 years,” he said. “If we don’t get this land, we’ll probably have to move.”
If that happened, McIntosh explained, it could possibly damage the ties PCLIA had to Parker County and the long-standing traditions of the group. McIntosh showed preliminary plans of what a new facility would look like and spoke about the possibility of businesses that could be attracted to the neighboring site i.e. a hotel and a gas station if there was events going on year-round.
The board discussed this item further in executive session, but took no action.
• Heard a construction update on the Don Allen Health Science Building, which is ahead of schedule as carpet and landscaping are going in over the coming weeks. The building is scheduled to open in early May.
• Approved the reinstatement of the Emergency Medical Services Profession AAS Degree. The program had previously been deactivated after the state had deemed it low producing. That decision was then reversed and Dr. Richard Bowers, WC Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, said that upon approval, the college would actually be able to issue degrees to students who had been in the program and waiting for the decision.
• Approved the 2014-15 academic calendar. The only change from the previous year was an adjustment to the payment schedule for students for the spring semester to better encourage registration without being dropped due to lack of payment.