The weight of tuition

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Jordan Morris

Gov. Greitens’ proposed budget could raise school fees for students; In the midst of possible new cuts, STLCC slapped with $25k lawsuit


Weight of TuitionOn Jan. 22, Governor Eric Greitens released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019. According to Greitens’ website, the proposal includes “increases in funding for infrastructure, education, public safety and programs to protect Missouri’s most vulnerable children,” to be primarily funded by reductions in higher education institutions and other smaller cuts.

The new budget shortage would be in addition to the first round, announced in summer of 2017, which resulted in a nearly $5 million deficit to STLCC’s core funding and the reduction of 58 full-time faculty.

According to a Jan. 24 email penned by STLCC’s Chancellor Jeff Pittman, the new budget, if approved, could lead to a loss of an additional $4.6 million in STLCC’s core funding. Pittman called the news “disheartening” and said that such a loss may result in drastic increases to tuition rates.

“This is something none of us want to consider, but, as we are already operating as a lean institution, changing our tuition model may be the next step that will need to be taken,” said Pittman.

STLCC’s Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Paul Zinck, declined to comment on the ongoing budget discussion.

According to Pittman, changing the model could mean a flat increase across all courses, but it could also mean that some courses will become more expensive to attend.

“Some community colleges in the United States have tiered tuition levels. They charge based on the program students are going into. They would be related to the cost of the program,” said Pittman.

Adding to the budget strain is the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE), which recently approved six new performance measures for community colleges including three-year completion rate, non-core expenditures and percentage of successfully completed credit hours. Following these measures is the recommendation that the Department of Higher Education withhold 10 percent of appropriations to be redistributed upon successful fulfilment of the proposed measures.

“It would equate to about $88 million when you look at all higher education,” said Pittman. “They would send back funds to each institution according to how they met their performance measures. Where we are now we believe we meet five out of the six measures. That means we would get 80 percent of our funding back.”

According to Pittman, the Department of Higher Education stated that they would “hold back the funds they plan to use.” What is most concerning, said Pittman, is that there is no description explaining how the system will work.

“That’s the very vague part. We’re not sure how the redistribution of funds would go. What criteria will they assign? We haven’t seen anything in regards to what that means,” said Pittman. “What they’re saying is in theory they will use that funding to assist schools that are not making their performance measures. The concern is that could, over time, dramatically erode our core further.”

In reaction to both Greitens’ and the CBHE’s proposals, Pittman has been spending much of his time in Jefferson City speaking with legislators. Over the past few weeks he has presented arguments against the changes to both the Higher Education Committee and the Subcommittee on Appropriations for Education. According to Pittman, his words are
reaching legislators.

The [appropriations] committee chairman, Rowland from Cedarcreek, came back the very next day after our testimony and said they’re going to recommend delaying [the CBHE’s proposal] by three years,” said Pittman.

Pittman will meet with another six legislators this week, including names like Claire McCaskill, Ann Wagner, Roy Blunt and Lacey Clay. Pittman said he has heard “nothing but support” from them and referred to them as “great friends.”

According to Pittman, measures are being taken to increase school funding through increased enrollment. These include the new center for nursing and sciences, which Pittman said will help meet demand for jobs in those fields, as well as expanding efforts through high schools with dual enrollment. STLCC was also recently approved for the Missouri Department of Higher Education’s list of institutions that meet the 42-hour minimum of general transfer credit hours, meaning transfer students can get credit for up to 42 hours at any higher education institution in Missouri. Pittman said this will make STLCC an excellent choice for students to earn credit hours at a lower tuition rate than

at four-year institutions.

“Our goal is to get through this session to protect core funding,” said Pittman. “To delay performance funding and to keep tuition low.”

Pittman said he encourages students and faculty to write to Missouri’s legislators and talk about the importance of maintaining STLCC’s core funding.

“That would be the biggest help I could get,” said Pittman. “But it’s not me, it’s the college. We want to keep your tuition low and at the same time we want to provide clear pathways to transfer and high
wage jobs.”

STLCC was also hit with an additional expenditure on Jan. 24, when a lawsuit was filed against STLCC by Steve Taylor, an adjunct professor who was tackled by a police officer at an October 2017 board meeting. Taylor’s lawsuit specifically targets Chancellor Pittman as well as Trustee Rodney Gee and Officer Robert Caples, the policeman who tackled Taylor. Taylor is suing for 10 different counts between the three men including First Amendment violations, unlawful search and seizure and libel.

Taylor has been hinting at his involvement with lawyers since shortly after the now infamous board meeting at which he was tackled.

According to the petition, Taylor was approaching the board table and “making a point about the board restricting free speech” when he was grabbed from behind by Caples and “aggressively” body slammed onto the floor, resulting in several bodily injuries. The petition notes that Taylor’s hands were in front of him as he approached the board “like a professor addressing a classroom of students” and argues that Taylor had no intent to harm board members when he was tackled.

The lawsuit demands trial by jury and is asking for damages of $25,000. According to STLCC Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Kedra Tolson, the administration has not yet been served with any paperwork relating to Taylor’s petition. Neither party would comment on the upcoming lawsuit.

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