WCCC plans 25% tuition increase for 2015-16
Rising costs and declining enrollment have contributed to Westmoreland County Community College’s decision to increase tuition $24 per credit, or almost 25 percent, and increase accompanying fees by $8 per credit.
President Tuesday Stanley said after reducing the operating budget by $3.4 million for 2015-16, the increase was necessary to offset revenues that were “significantly down.”
“The tuition increase is just one part of us trying to ensure the college remains fiscally stable,” she said.
A resolution passed by college trustees Wednesday approved the increase for two years, freezing tuition for the 2017 fiscal year, Stanley said.
The cost per credit will rise from $98 per credit to $122 per credit, she said.
The increase will be in effect for the fall term, which begins Aug. 20.
Service fees for technology, facilities, student services, ID replacement and applications will be bundled and charged to students at $39 per credit.
The increase of $8 in fees simplifies students’ ability to calculate tuition, Stanley said, and application fees may be covered by scholarship or grant money.
“It certainly was a decision we deliberated over for months,” she said.
Last year, trustees approved a $5 per credit tuition increase.
Board chairman Larry Larese said when the fiscal year ends June 30, the college is projecting to close out the year at $37.8 million. So far, the board predicts next year’s budget will be $288,000 higher, he said.
The tuition and fee increases should generate $2.7 million, but with a loss of $750,000 in grant funding, most of that revenue will be used to make up the deficit from the previous year, he said.
Some cuts that have been made were one-time spending reductions and “no sacred cows” will be passed over this year, all of the college’s programs and locations will be examined to cut costs, Larese said.
Stanley said prior to the increase, WCCC had the third-lowest tuition rate of the 14 community colleges throughout Pennsylvania. The rate hike will place the college at the “lower end of the middle” on that list.
“In order for this institution to contribute and interpret the needs of the community, we had to do a variety of things, including reducing expenses and raising tuition,” she said.
Spokeswoman Anna Marie Palatella said enrollment has declined since 2010 when the peak of the recession encouraged unemployed workers to take classes at the college.
“There were a lot of people who were laid off and came back to school to update their job skills,” she said, adding that numbers are now beginning to “right-size” to closer to average.
In the fall term of 2010, the college had an enrollment of 7,397 that fell to 5,638 for the fall term in 2014, Palatella said, accounting for about a 24 percent decrease.
Less funding from the state and county, as well as rising costs in contractual obligations for services, contributed to the need for the increase, Palatella said.
Larese said he realizes county officials are working with a shrinking budget as well.
“It’s something they had to do to deal with their budget,” he said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or [email protected].