TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College board members took their first look at next year’s draft budget, which included a nearly 32 percent tuition hike for the nursing, automotive, and audio-tech programs.
If approved, about 230 students would see their tuition rise from $84.60 to $111.50 per contact hour in their respective programs.
“The idea is that the potential salaries for students in these programs are much higher than, say, a business student getting right out of school,” said Vicki Cook, NMC’s vice president for finance and administration.
Those programs also were chosen for tuition hikes because they lose up to $100,000 or more each year and have low class numbers in lab-like settings, Cook said.
Another 170 culinary students also would pay more —$135.65 per contact hour. In-district students will see little change in cost because their course fees would be eliminated, Cook said.
The differential tuition for the program courses is a first for NMC, although the maritime and other specialty programs already charge significant course fees to cover actual costs.
In-district students —about 55 percent of NMC’s 4,734 students — would see the lowest increase. Their tuition would rise by 2 percent or about $20 per semester. The in-district cost to attend NMC ranks is in the mid-range of the state’s other community colleges.
Students who live outside Grand Traverse would pay about $84 more per semester, based on a 12-credit load. Out-of-state students will pay $100 more. NMC’s current out-of-district tuition and fees rank as the seventh highest out of the state’s 28 community colleges.
In-district students pay lower tuition and fees because Grand Traverse County residents pay an annual 2.17 operating millage. NMC will ask voters for a .4 mill increase in August.
The budget numbers are still in flux and could change before the fiscal year begins on July 1. For example, Cook budgeted 13 new positions, but subsequently trimmed that number to 11.
Board member Cheryl Gore Follette cautioned the board about adding new jobs. Each job is a decades-long commitment of salaries and benefits beyond the first-year expense, she said.
“We haven’t had an increase in enrollment the last few years,” she said. “We actually had declines, but we’re adding more bodies. It’s troubling to me.”
The college may get more revenue from property taxes than reflected in the draft budget, thanks to a rebounding real estate market, Cook said.
Trustee Bill Myers worried that the ratio of fees and tuition are out of balance. He said someone might misinterpret the real cost of attending NMC if considering tuition only. But fees increase the in-district rate from $84.60 to $118.97 per contact hour.
Gore Follette said NMC’s fees aren’t out of the norm.
Other colleges have “fees to get registered, fees to get toilet paper, fees to walk across campus,” she said. “... I don’t think we have too many fees.”
Snapshot of proposed NMC salary increases
Employees 2013 2014 percent increase
89* Faculty $6,556,396 $6,862,888 4.7%
86 Adjuncts 2,838,879 2,884,585 1.6%
13 Executives 1,218,330 1,245,742 2.2%
41 Student Jobs 471,916 417,916 0%
*Employee numbers are full-time equivalents. These are selected categories. Total salaries (not including new positions) are recommended to increase an average of 2.7 percent, from $21.1 million to $21.7 million.
Health care costs are slated to increase by $251,000 next year due to the Affordable Care Act, which redefines a full-time employee as working 30-hour weeks.
The 2014 budget year begins on July 1, 2013.