By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Students at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College may face the steepest tuition increase in 15 years if capital appropriations funding doesn't come through in the state budget.
As the House and Senate work on a compromise solution to two state budget bills, students and administrators at the Clifton school of 8,100 are watching one line item with close interest. It would provide the college with nearly $1 million in each of the next two years to help pay off bonds issued to build the school's new Advanced Technology and Learning Center.
Cincinnati State is hoping for state aid to help pay off bonds issued to build its Advanced Technology and Learning Center, set to open in 2004.
(Tony Jones photo)
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If the money isn't allocated, officials likely will have to raise tuition at an institution where cost is a major factor in a student's decision to attend.
Keeping costs low is part of the college's mission. Cincinnati State has kept that promise, president Ron Wright said, by increasing tuition only $2.50 in the past five years.
The House budget bill eliminated capital appropriations, but the Senate version restored the statewide allocation of $18.7 million.
If tuition goes up, students would have to pay the difference, because financial aid has already been awarded for next year. Some might take out more loans, while others might take a smaller class load. The ones Wright worries most about are those who might drop out.
"Some of the neediest people in our community, who are literally pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, will have those bootstraps cut," Wright said. "We're going to do everything we can to try to make sure that doesn't happen. But the potential is still there."
Cincinnati State could be forced to increase the per-credit tuition rate from its current $65 to $76.22, based on a level enrollment. For a student taking 16 credit hours, the increase would be $179.52.
"That's the difference for some people between transportation and eating and day care," Wright said.
Last year, the college began construction on the advanced technology building, with funding coming through a $55 million bond issue. The college committed to paying off half the bond issue with instructional and parking revenues and the rest with state capital appropriations.
The center, which will be completed in 2004, will house academic programs in information technology, the Midwest Culinary Institute and a student life center.
"If the state were to rescind the capital component allocation, the college may need to increase tuition by as much as 15 percent in order to generate sufficient funds to retire the bonds," said William N. Rollins Jr., vice president of finance and treasurer.
"The increase in tuition costs to the student would undoubtedly impact decisions by both the current and prospective student to continue their education at Cincinnati State."
George Gatto, a 22-year-old Cleves native, is in his sixth term in the school's Web design program.
After graduating from high school in 1999, he started working part-time for the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center as part of the setup crew. In 2001, he enrolled part-time at Cincinnati State in the late fall term.
"I have loans," Gatto said. "But I still have to pay for books and other stuff that the loans don't pay for. The loan doesn't pay for it all. I'd probably have to take a lower class load and work more to afford it if I could do that at all. I'd hate to have to go through all that and quit. Then, I'd have all those loans to pay and no job."
State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said that while the state plans to raise the sales tax one cent, legislators still are cutting where they can.
"Higher education is hugely important," he said. "I agree with that. (But) it's not a constitutional imperative as K-12 schools are. It is not a federal mandate as is Medicaid. Times are tough and that's the bottom line."
If capital funds are cut, Wright said, some programs might have to be eliminated.
The school has already begun cutting its $44 million budget. The school will bring training to the campus rather than send faculty and staff out of town. Replacing retiring faculty and staff with new hires at lower salaries also will produce some savings.
This summer, student will be charged a new, $25 technology and activities fee per term.
Additional cuts and tuition increases won't be made until a panel of lawmakers from both chambers works out a compromise. That could happen by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Until then, administrators, and students such as Thomas Cannon, a 33-year-old from Dent, will have to wait.
Cannon only has a few credits left to complete his automotive service management program. "I'd like them to pay attention," he said of those in state office. "... The more expensive you make it, the harder it's going to be for some of these people to go to school.
"It might be 15 percent more the first year, but then what? Somebody has to pay for that building out there."
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