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Colleges Plan 64% Tuition Jump for Fall

Students at Ventura County's two-year campuses face a $7-per-unit hike to $18 once the Legislature approves a fee increase.

June 27, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County community college students enrolling next month will face a 64% tuition increase for the fall semester.

James Walker, acting chancellor of the 35,000-student district, announced Thursday that Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges will raise tuition from the current $11 to $18 per credit unit in anticipation of mandatory fee hikes from the Legislature.

The announcement came a day before trustees meet to authorize a tentative spending plan that cuts $15 million out of next school year's operating budget.

Although a final budget for community colleges has not been determined in Sacramento, Walker said it was time to alert incoming students of higher costs before fall registration begins July 14.

"That's what's so frustrating about this whole thing. We don't know what our budget or the fees will be while they're playing their games in Sacramento," Walker said. "Try to run a business like this and you'll go bankrupt."

If lawmakers approve a smaller increase, or none at all, Walker said the district will make refunds to students. Things will not be as easy if the final tuition hike exceeds the $18 estimate. Some budget proposals being considered anticipate increases up to $26 per unit.

"Trying to collect those extra dollars is nearly impossible," he said. "There's no way we're going to go back to students and say, 'You owe us.' We'll do whatever we can do to bite the bullet."

Moorpark College student Crystal Wirth, who works in the campus business office and collects tuition during registration, said the complaints have started already. "We end up being the people that they vent it out on."

The 21-year-old, who also makes money as a baby sitter and working with horses, said paying more for school will be difficult but won't keep her out of college. "It's still a lot cheaper than going to a university," Wirth said.

Deputy Chancellor Mike Gregoryk said the extra tuition revenue, estimated at $4.2 million next school year, will go straight to the state and will not directly help the local district.

Board President Art Hernandez said he hopes higher fees -- $84 more each semester for a person taking a full load of 12 credits -- will not discourage any student from attending college.

"It's a significant hike, especially for those who can barely afford it now, when you include the other fees and books," Hernandez said. "So we want to make sure every student who qualifies is aware of financial aid" that's available.

Gregoryk will present a $106-million operating budget to trustees at a special meeting this morning, down from $121 million last fiscal year. The budget includes more than $10.5 million in personnel and service cuts.

After the faculty union agreed to an early retirement package and salary rollbacks to save $5.8 million, the Service Employees International Union Local 535 approved $3.6 million in cuts that included 31 people taking $12,000 incentives to retire early and all remaining members accepting a shorter workweek. There were also 30 layoffs among classified workers, though 20 of those people have other positions elsewhere in the district.

Managers and supervisors are making proportional concessions in the form of 1% salary rollbacks, and for the first time, monthly contributions to their health-care premiums. They were able to save the district more than $1 million collectively, according to Gregoryk.

"I can't say enough about all the bargaining units ... everyone across the board has chipped in to try to minimize the impact to students," Hernandez said.

Board Vice President Cheryl Heitmann said it is shortsighted of the state to make such severe cuts to higher education, but hopes things will stabilize when the economy improves.

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