The Barton Community College Board of Trustees will have some hard choices to make in the coming year, based on information shared Thursday at a board retreat.
The trustees are likely to approve a tuition increase of $5-7 per credit hour for the spring semester of 2015. Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the administration had hoped to avoid a tuition increase. Now it’s too late to increase tuition this fall because many students have already made their plans and the college tries consider the students. But Heilman and Board Chairman Mike Johnson said the goal is to avoid raising local property taxes.
“If we don’t do an increase (of tuition), we’ll have to look at a mill levy increase, and no one wants that,” Johnson said.
For years, the college sought to fund a third of its budget from tuition, a third from property taxes and a third from state aid. Now, the state contributes about 27 percent, local taxpayers 32 percent and students 41 percent, Dean of Administration Mark Dean said.
Dean said the state will most likely take back part of Barton’s funding next year to balance the budget. This could mean a loss of $390,000. A $7 tuition increase would raise about $251,000.
The college continues to increase revenue through enrollment increases. That brings in more tuition, but it doesn’t increase state aid.
One program that is seeing a decrease in enrollment is Automotive Technology. Heilman said he’ll be recommending reducing the staff from two instructors to one to reduce projected losses.
Mary Foley, executive director of Workforce Development, discussed the future of the automotive program, as well as plans for a future welding program. A space was created for welding during the last major construction project, but it was not furnished. Now, the college may look at using that space for other purposes, and creating an area for welding instruction in part of the space now allocated for automotive instruction.
“I’m still unsure of the Automotive Technology future,” Heilman said. “I’d like to see what’s going to happen in the next six months.” He added that a number of programs will come under scrutiny next year.
Meanwhile, area employers are requesting a program to provide certified welders. “We get calls every day for welding,” Foley said.
Trustee Leonard Bunselmeyer expressed interest in a college goal to “nurture” the automotive program, and asked how that could be done.
Foley said offering a certificate program that students can complete in 26 hours, as opposed to an associate degree which takes two years, could help. Workforce Training is also looking at scheduling changes to condense the time it takes to complete the program, and has created automotive “how-to” videos promoting the department, which can be seen on the Barton YouTube channel.
Area high schools, including Great Bend, do have students who take automotive classes at BCC. This fall, St. John will bus five students to Barton for the classes.
Trustees spent the first hour of their four-hour retreat learning about federal financial aid policy implications. Myrna Perkins, head of the Financial Aid program at Barton, said as federal aid increases, qualifying for it becomes more complex. There are more than 7,000 regulations to comply with, at last count, and the regulations have implications for every department of the college. In the future, she is requesting one additional employee for student services and one for compliance.
In his financial report, Dean said revenue is up $1.6 million, while expenses are up $1.2 million. The college spent $1.6 million on capital improvement projects, but gained back part of what was spent. Cash reserves are at 30 percent of the general fund. When the trustees work on next year’s budget, they can expect valuations to be up for both property and oil.
Camp Aldrich update
The time line will be tight, but Dean said the college will try to rebuild the dining hall at Camp Aldrich, which was destroyed by a fire last April, by June 1, 2015. Some upgrades are required to comply with building codes. The plan is to add a 15,000 gallon water tank, which will be underground, and sprinklers throughout the building for fire protection.
The college is working with the insurance company and now has a concept drawing of a modern facility that will attempt to preserve the rustic look of the former dining hall.
Economic impact study
Dean of Information Services Charles Perkins talked to the trustees about an economic impact study commissioned by the college. The $19 million payroll is just a fraction of the benefits to the community and the state as a whole, Perkins said.
Heilman said the college buys locally whenever it can. Copiers, vehicles and construction projects have been purchased in the service area.
“We’re using a lot of local venders, so a lot of the money goes to the local economy,” Heilman said.
More of the college’s economic impact will be shared with the community in the college’s next annual report.