Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 26, 2014

Editorial: NMC officials must justify bigger increase in tuition

So which is it, 3 percent or 5 to 7 percent? Just how much does Northwestern Michigan College really need to hike tuition (plus a 3 percent hike in student fees) to make the budget balance while offering students the best deal possible?

Prior to Monday night, the college had been asking NMC’s Board of Trustees to approve a 3 percent tuition hike for in-stateresidents.

But Monday, the budget approved 5-2 by the board included increases of 5 percent for in-state students and 7 percent for non-Michigan students.

The reason for the change, according to Vicki Cook, the college’s vice president of finance and administration, didn’t have anything to do with changes in the budget or a last-minute need for more revenue.

It was simply because a 3-percent cap on tuition increases proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder no longer was included in state budgets.

Cook said previous proposed budgets included a $300,000 deficit that officials planned to close using the college’s fund balance. The bigger tuition hikes erased that deficit.

That’s no way to set the amount that students, most of whom work while taking classes on a part-time basis, will have to fork over next year. For them, every dollar counts and the difference between a 3 percent hike and a 5 percent one is not just a number. It’s more hours at work and less money to spend on their family or themselves.

They don’t have the luxury of a fund balance to dip into to erase what is, in the college’s $43 million spending plan, a 0.007 percent charge.

Of every budget item the college deals with, tuition hikes should get the maximum attention and be the last resort as a way to raise revenues. Making a last-minute hike in what students will pay just because they can is no way for the college to do business.

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