During a recent Big Sandy Community and Technical College board meeting, board members were informed that the Kentucky Community and Technical College System Board of Regents approved a $5 per student credit hour tuition increase for 2019-2020 for in-state students.

As a result, students can expect to pay this increase at BSCTC beginning in the fall, BSCTC Chief Financial Officer Michelle Meek reported.

Meek also reported that the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget was “tighter” than last year’s due to a projected increase in expenditures, including toward the Kentucky Employee Retirement System. The $40.9 million budget, which was approved during the meeting, sets aside about $18 million for personnel.

“We’ve had some decreased enrollment this year, so we’re looking at requests and calculating based on estimated revenues and expenses,” she said. “Based on criteria on the initial revenue tuition estimate, basically based on the shortfall we had last year and the current year set number of credit hours, we built from there.”

Meek detailed for the board several of the expenditures, but emphasized that this was just an “estimate — a placeholder.”

“Right now, there is a proposal before the regent’s board for a tentative, non-recurring salary increase of $1,000 for full time personnel with an estimated cost to the college of $210,000. KCTCS is recommending that we use our primary fund balance dollars. This has not yet been approved by the board, but KCTCS has asked us to plug it into the budget,” she said. “Additionally, KCTCS asked us to budget for a potential KERS benefit increase. Currently, it’ll costs us $436,000 if these changes will be implemented this year, which will take us from 47 percent to 87 percent — that’s a huge increase. That proposal is with the governor right now, and we’re waiting to see what the final outcome is.”

According to the budget approved at the meeting, most of BSCTC’s $40.9 million in revenues will come from government grants and contracts, budgeted at more than $18 million. Tuition and fees are expected to provide nearly $11.9 million for BSCTC in 2019-2020, the budget reports, and the college will also receive $10.2 million in a state allocations.

The majority of expenses are budgeted for instruction ($13.7 million) and student financial aid ($14.4 million). Operating expenses are set at about $6.7 million, the budget reports, and BSCTC will spend more than $3 million each for student services, operations/ maintenance and institutional support.

Meek said BSCTC could expect to see increased revenue from a part-time CPR instructor and from enrollment into a new criminal justice and music program.

“We are doing both on a one-year trial basis. This expenditure was listed as a prior year expenditure, and while it is not out of the operating budget, it is budgeted as a line item.”

Meek also reported that there was an expected increase in revenue from an increased focus on community classes, such as those through workforce with examples of addiction recovery certificates, community dental health coordinator, Passport grid, Job Corps and WestCare enrollment.

BSCTC’s rise in tuition aligns with the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s parameter for tuition rates. Approved KCTCS tuition rates for the 2019-20 year are $174 per credit hour for in-state students, $348 per credit hour for out-of-state students from counties contiguous to Kentucky and $609 per credit hour for all other out-of-state students. Meek said that BSTC online course charges $20 per credit hour.

These increases are slightly above BSCTC’s current rates of $169 per credit hour for in-state students, $338 per credit hour for out-of-state counties contiguous to Kentucky and $592 per credit hour for other out-of-state students.

Since the 2008-09 academic year, the annual tuition and mandatory fees in-state students pay to study at the state’s eight public universities and 16 community and technical colleges have collectively increased at an average rate of 4.5 percent per year, according to data from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Of Kentucky’s public universities and colleges, the KCTCS  average annual tuition growth rate was lowest, at 3.9 percent, and Morehead State University’s was highest, at 4.8 percent, between the 2008-09 and 2018-19 academic years, according to council data.

KCTCS council officials emphasized when the tuition increase was announced in March that the majority of Kentucky students don’t pay full price for tuition, noting that they have access to financial aid.

To assist students with increased tuition, BSCTC officials also announced a new scholarship to help students complete their associate degrees in two years or less. The “15 to Finish” scholarship will pay $500 to students who successfully complete 15 credit hours in a semester and re-enroll for 15 hours the next semester.

“Beginning this fall, students could start earning $1,500 in scholarships on their way to an Associate in Arts or Associate in Science degree and up to $2,000 if they are pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree, which may take an additional semester,” BSCTC President/CEO Dr. Sherry Zylka said. “Numerous studies show taking 15 hours per semester reduces the cost of college, can lead to higher grade point averages and lowers dropout rate. By taking at least 15 credit hours per semester students can finish college faster and get on the road to a great career.”

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