Following in the wake of a dramatic reduction in state funding, the cost of tuition for Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) students was raised $5 per credit hour, taking the cost of a credit from $76 to $81. The 6.5 percent increase was passed almost unanimously by the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) governing board.
MCCCD funding provided by the state was lowered to $7.9 million for the 2013-14 school year; a $400,000 decrease from the previous school year. The reduction in funding was based on a decline in student enrollment during the 2011-12 school year. The Maricopa District is currently working with other Arizona community college districts and the state government to develop a program that is based on college performance, instead of funding based purely on enrollment.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Business Services, Gaye Murphy, shed some light on reasons behind tuition increases: “Over the last few years the state of Arizona has cut more than $60 million in state support” says Murphy. To make up for that deficit the new budget calls for spending cuts, increased Maricopa County property taxes, a reallocation of $35 million in funding, and a tuition increase.
Murphy further explained, “It is our responsibility to implement a balanced budget while maintaining the best quality education for students and meeting workforce demands.”
EMCC student Travis Lindsey offers his opinion, “I am in favor of the increase. The drastic change in economy has left us with few options and the money is needed now.” Lindsey suggests the colleges seek support from local private investors. “Our biggest obstacle isn’t how to spend the money we have, it is how to generate future revenue we will need.”
With the budget dynamics for the Maricopa Community College District becoming more complex and state funding steadily decreasing, the theme among administrators has been “do more with less” and that’s exactly their intent.
Given a limited budget and restricted resources the colleges are strategically focusing investments in key programs. In order to improve efficacy, MCCCD will be enacting a full-scale review of programs and services offered at each college so they can understand what is needed and effective, and direct resources to areas with the most need.
Other initiatives are the works to make the student experience better such as making access to information easier, the financial aid process smoother and timelier, and hiring more full-time faculty. The idea behind these initiatives is to create a fundamental group of people who will be a support system for students and the institution.
With all of the support from students, administration, and the community, EMCC will continue striving to provide the best standards of higher learning.