Feb 222013

By Linda Kor
The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board reviewed an introductory analysis of the upcoming Northland Pioneer College budget Tuesday. The information provided to the board included no substantial changes over the current budget, but did include a proposed increase in tuition and fee costs, as well as an increase in salaries for college employees.
In presenting the information to the board, NPC Vice President of Administrative Services Blaine Hatch explained that he anticipates revenues will remain flat compared to the current fiscal year, with state funding expected to increase by $100,000. The primary property tax will be levied at the maximum rate, which would be two percent higher than the current year tax and will require a Truth in Taxation hearing. Information provided by Hatch showed that property tax valuation is expected to continue to decline, causing a greater than two percent increase in the current tax rate of $1.3515 per $100 of net assessed value to a rate of $1.5064. He also reported that additional revenue may also be coming from the state as legislation moves forward to provide $199,300 in funding for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related equipment.
Hatch explained that expenditures would also likely remain flat aside from a proposed three percent increase in salaries for college employees, as well as an increase of less than one percent for their match to the Arizona State Retirement System and a 2.8 percent increase in employee health insurance costs.
He also asked the board to consider continuing with the college’s incremental increase in tuition by increasing the credit hour tuition cost by $2. He explained that the increase would keep the college competitive with other community colleges in the state, but should not present a great hardship to students. “If the increase is approved at the next governing board meeting, it is estimated that the increase will bring in an additional $100,000 to the college,” he said.
Hatch also proposed leaving the cost per credit hour for out of state students at its current rate. “Current out of state tuition is higher than most community colleges and staff proposes no change in the rate per credit hour,” he explained. If an increase were approved for in-state tuition that would bring the cost to $64 per credit hour, up from $62, and out of state tuition would remain at $305 per credit hour.
Other proposed changes include fee increases for classes in which the cost of consumable supplies has gone up. Of the 1,200 courses offered at the college, one-third of them include course fees and only a small portion of those will see increases that will range from $5 to $20. Other greater fee increases would include the police academy program, which would increase from $200 to $400 for the entire program, and two of the nursing classes, which would also increase from $200 to $400. Also proposed is the elimination of the graduation, special certificate, GED and Student Emergency Loan Processing fees.
Information provided by Hatch showed that if the board should approve the changes in fees and tuition, NPC would still remain one of the least expensive community colleges in the state, with Eastern Arizona College having the lowest tuition costs.
The board is scheduled to make a decision on the proposed changes during its March meeting.
In other business, Hatch asked the board to consider amending the academic calendar to include starting the fall semester one week early and completing it one week early. The change would allow for a longer break between the fall and spring semesters, something Director of Student Services Mark Vest said would be of value to the students. “This would help students who want more time to make informed decisions on their education path. It would also allow more time for processing Pell Grants and align us with government reporting,” stated Vest. If board members should agree to the change, they will also be asked to drop Presidents Day as one of its legal holidays in order to allow for the calendar adjustment. Should the holiday be dropped, the board will be asked to increase employees’ personal leave days from two to three days.
Vest noted that all three state universities and four community colleges in the state have already made the same adjustment to their academic calendars.
The board also approved a modification for the medical assistant program.
According to Karen Hanson, the Allied Health coordinator for NPC, the changes are a necessity.
“We have a poor record of medical assistant graduates who left here unprepared for their job,” stated Hanson. She explained that there is a demand for greater clinical skills and that the current program is not providing those skills.
Hanson worked with the college’s Medical Assistant Advisory Committee to compare other medical assistant programs throughout the state, and it was determined that changes to the program will better equip students for employment and give them more laboratory practice hours, since the primary focus of medical assisting is clinical work. According to Hanson, the change will greatly benefit the college and the students.
“This new program is one to be proud of. Students taking this program will be prepared to pass the national certification if they choose to do so,” she said.