WSCC trustees OK tuition hike

MARIETTA – Washington State Community College kicked off its 2014 Annual Fund Campaign to rally for new donors for its foundation’s scholarships and to thank current ones while also approving a tuition increase at its Board of Trustees meeting Monday.

The Washington State Community College Foundation is celebrating its 10th year providing scholarships to students by launching this year’s campaign, encouraging the community and making it aware of the need for funded scholarships.

Tying in the need students currently face to fund their education, the Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase for next school year, citing issues related to a drop in enrollment that colleges across the state are facing.

“It’s something we don’t like to do, but it keeps the college financially healthy,” said WSCC President Bradley Ebersole.

WSCC Treasurer Jess Raines explained that the college’s revenue is down by eight percent from the previous year, citing enrollment as one of the primary factors.

“We’re still at a good place financially and we’re able to respond to the needs of the college,” Raines said.

Despite that good place, Raines said the enrollment, which ties to a decreasing amount of college-aged and adult students, creates an uncertainty that makes a tuition increase necessary.

The board approved an increase from $136 per credit hour to $139; a registration fee increase per semester from $35 to $40; and an out-of-state tuition increase from $272 per credit hour to $278. The changes, Raines said, will allow for a $120,000 annual increase in revenue.

“I would like to see a year where we don’t do an increase, even if it’s not this year,” said trustee Davis Powers. “We’re still a good deal in town, but if we work really hard next year, we could still put out the quality we’re known for.”

Trustees also brought up the option to adopt a guaranteed tuition model that has been trending in other schools, where students are guaranteed the same tuition rate throughout a reasonably set time for them to finish.

“There’s an incentive there for students to complete their education in time, and it’s something we’ll be looking at in the next few years,” Raines said.

At the fund’s campaign kickoff, the college foundation’s executive director Gary Williams stressed the importance of making the community aware of the student need for scholarships.

“About two-thirds of our students receive financial assistance, but our state ranks 39th in funding for need-based assistance,” Williams said. “So today, we open the fund up in anticipation and to thank the many donors of our foundation that have given back over $1 million so far in scholarships.”

The college foundation has 36 scholarships currently in place and 10 created within the last decade.

“The need is great, and as we reach out to the Mid-Ohio Valley, we believe the community responds best when they understand the challenges our students face in paying for their education,” Williams said.

The “Thanks a Million” campaign celebrates the foundation’s 10th birthday and the $1 million donated so far, including a recent new scholarship in cooperation with Wendy’s for students who were adopted or went through the foster care system.

The scholarship generated $17,000 in one year through the sale of $2 Wendy’s key chains.

“If you have a passion you want filled by the foundation, we can make it happen for you,” Williams said.

In addition to the tuition increase and campaign kick-off, the board also approved the inception of a new Welding Technology certificate, a one-year program that will start out next fall with about 10 students per evening program to earn welding credentials, on the college’s campus.