HACC students who are not sponsored by one of the 22 school districts surrounding the Harrisburg Campus will face a $5 per credit hour tuition increase and a $5 per credit hour institutional fee. Sponsoring school districts share the cost of tuition with their residents who are attending HACC. Students from non-sponsoring districts taking 12 credits will pay an additional $120 per semester under the new rates.
"We have worked very hard to hold costs down throughout the year," said Dr. Edna Baehre, president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College. "But two years of inadequate state support has forced us to raise tuition and fees in order to balance our budget."
That shortfall came despite the statutory requirement that all of the state's fourteen community colleges be reimbursed at the rate of $1,500 per full-time student.
"Over the last two years, the state left the community colleges with an operating budget reimbursement closer to $1,380 per full-time student," Baehre said. "For HACC, that reimbursement shortfall amounts to nearly $4 million over the two years."
In addition to the shortfalls on the operating budget, Baehre noted that the state has failed to contribute its normal share of the college's needed capital expenses.
"We have received specific, written endorsements from the state for building expansions," she said. "For forty years, those endorsements have resulted in support from the state for our bond issues and our long-term leases."
Now, however, the state has failed to provide for the capital needs of all fourteen colleges. While other sectors of higher education received new capital dollars, the community colleges have not seen any new capital dollars since 2001. What's more, since July last year, nearly all capital dollars have vanished.
"As a result, we are facing a capital shortfall of more than $2 million this year and nearly $3 million for next year," Baehre said. "The result will be additional pressure on our operating budget."
Despite the financial constraints, HACC has continued to grow. The college currently has nearly 16 thousand students enrolled at its four campuses and off-site centers.
"The lack of state support risks cutting off access for those least able to afford a college education," Baehre said. "It risks creating a permanent underclass - an underclass that will never reach its full potential.
"The recent proposals by the administration to increase funding to the community colleges are a good first step," she said, "but they are only a first step. The proposed increase in operating budget reimbursement is more than offset by the failure to provide critical capital funding.
"At best, the current budget proposal leaves us about where we are now," Baehre said, "with the potential of more tuition increases next year just to keep even."
In the meantime, Baehre said that the college is offering extended hours in its financial aid offices and put additional financial aid counselors on call to handle an expected increase in demand for aid.