Rowan-Cabarrus could lose $2 million, hike tuition
KANNAPOLIS — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College could lose more than $2 million in state funding next year, college officials said Monday, but the budget is still uncertain.
Right now, the North Carolina Senate and House are working out differences between their two versions of the state budget for fiscal year 2013-14. Both proposals include cuts to the state’s community college system.
“We’re very worried about the state budget,” said Dr. Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus. “They’re saying there’s not enough money to fund all three systems. It seems the community colleges are the least funded this biennium, yet they’re one of the most important educational structures in the state.”
In fiscal year 2012, Rowan-Cabarrus received $27.9 million from the state, according to its annual report.
The state funds about 90 percent of the college’s budget, and per student funding in the community college system has already declined significantly, Spalding said.
“We need $14 million more in the general community college system budget to make the numbers work,” she said. “That budget cut, proportionally, would be about $2 or $3 million in Rowan-Cabarrus.”
Spalding said Monday that this kind of cut would be very difficult to absorb. In preparation, Rowan-Cabarrus is now looking at ways to reduce its own budget.
In addition to making cuts, Spalding said the college is trying to find ways to save money and become more efficient. Staff is working on changing some systems and eliminating duplication.
The college is also considering slowing down hiring and consolidating programs, she said. That could mean fewer classes and student services.
“We’re not set on all of that yet,” Spalding said. “Right now, we’re looking at everything possible to save money in light of the state budget.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Board of Trustees, the board approved a continuation budget to pay salaries and other necessary expenses until the state passes its own budget.
Once the state makes its final decisions for fiscal year 2013-14, the board will pass a budget based on those numbers.
“Community colleges are critical to providing low-cost, high-value training that results in job retention and job creation,” said Carl M. Short, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees in a press release. “Please reach out to your local legislators and ask that they speak up for your community colleges.”
The state legislature also has raised tuition for the next school year for community colleges. According to Rowan-Cabarrus officials, that’s a 70 percent overall increase since 2008.
At community colleges, money from tuition increases does not go directly to the schools. Instead, it is paid to the state, which then allocates the funding.
Tom Bost, chair of the board’s finance and investment committee, said at Monday’s meeting that tuition rates will rise by $2.50 per credit hour. That’s the same amount as the increase for the 2012-13 school year, but it’s much lower than the $10 increase in 2011-12.
Registration fees for continuing education and occupational extension courses also will be increased by $5 per course.
“That is not our choice,” Bost said. “We don’t make that decision. The state board of community colleges fixes and regulates tuition and fees charged to students.”
Starting this fall, he said, in-state tuition will increase from $69 to $71.50 per credit hour. North Carolina students will pay a maximum of $1,144 per semester based on 16 credit hours of instruction.
Tuition for non-residents will increase from $261 to $263.50 per credit hour, for a maximum of $4,216 based on 16 credit hours of instruction.
In addition, the board welcomed three new members at Monday’s meeting.
Paul Brown, who was appointed by the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, begins a four-year term on July 1. He will take the seat of outgoing board member Irvin Newberry, who was recognized for his service at the meeting.
Patricia Fulcher, also appointed by the Board of Education, joined the board in April to fill the unexpired term of Susan Kluttz. Fulcher previously served on the board as an appointee of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners from 2004 to 2012.
Patricia Horton was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to fulfill Tony Almeida’s vacated term through June 30, and the board is now waiting on her reappointment by the governor.
Finally, Quentin Woodward Jr. also was reappointed to the board for another four-year term beginning July 1.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.