Tuition increase likely to begin in the fall semester

Home Archived News Tuition increase likely to begin in the fall semester

Kristen Kessler

Published: April 27, 2005

Funding problems and a decrease in an enrollment due to Hurricane Ivan could cause up to a five percent  rise in tuition in the fall.

“Five percent is the highest we’ve heard so far,” Vice President of Business Affairs Gean Ann Emond said.

The exact figure will not be set in stone until it finished its course through approval boards, she said.

The harsh year in Pensacola has placed strain on the school’s budget. Every year, the state of Florida sets a range for community college tuitions, which the individual colleges may then vary according to their needs. Since a large portion of state funding is based on enrollment numbers, PJC suffered a substantial hit when its numbers dropped after Hurricane Ivan. Emond said that the school “has not been forgiven” for its losses after the hurricane, which means post-Ivan enrollment numbers will determine state funding for PJC’s next year.

Fluctuations in enrollment are to be expected, but the drop in the 2004-2005 school year can only be explained by Ivan. Dr. Marshall McLeod, director of institutional research and effectiveness, revealed the differences between the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 school years.

In comparison to 2003, the numbers after Ivan show a 14.5 percent drop in enrollment in the fall 2004 semester. 14.5 percent translates into 2,539 students. The spring semester was also affected, showing a 12.6 percent decrease.

The totals for the year of 2004-2005 were, on average, 10 percent lower than 2003-2004, and that loss must be reported to the state.

While the effects of past storms and disasters have been overlooked by the state before, a new “funding formula” has made it necessary to report the student decline this year. 

This formula takes enrollment numbers, among other factors, over a period of three years and averages them together, so as not to allow one bad year to stand alone.  On one hand, the balance helps the school recuperate from a disaster like Ivan.  On the other hand, that year can be a weight on the average, as this one is likely to be for PJC.

“Because the college has shrunk, the state will look at that for three years,” McLeod said.

He demonstrated hope that the numbers will rise, though, saying that the school has done a good job working towards recovery.

Emond was also optimistic about PJC’s future. She said that sometimes there is a trend of twice-as-low      enrollment in the year           following a hurricane, but she said, “We feel like we’ll come back from this; next fall should look better.”

Projections for next year’s funding are being made at  faculty budget hearings, where cutbacks and       department expenditures are discussed.  While the state’s funding formula may harm PJC with enrollment report requirements, it is helpful in other areas by considering the three campuses, disability services and provisions like libraries and computer labs for other types of funding.

Although the five percent increase in tuition will     translate to about $2.85 per credit hour for in-state          residents (up to $61.35 from $58.50), this could still mean an increase in expenditures for students already  financially affected by the hurricane.

The financial crunch may also translate into fewer   technological extras for next year and corner-cutting in terms of new equipment. The wish lists of all departments- and students- will remain on hold as PJC watches for fall enrollment.