HAMLET — Richmond Community College President Dale McInnis said he opposes a plan to allow community colleges to add a local surcharge to student tuition.
McInnis is expected to vote against the proposal when it come before the N.C. Association of Community College Presidents on Thursday.
Under the plan, a community college could add a surcharge that could mean up to $256 a year more for a full-time student paying $2,432 in tuition per academic year, RCC officials said.
Each college would be allowed to keep the additional revenue from the surcharge and use it to upgrade equipment and develop new programs.
McInnis said the additional fee is “counterintuitive” to the mission of community colleges.
“At RichmondCC, we are looking for innovative ways to keep the costs of tuition down, not increasing it,” McInnis said in a statement. “Many of our students already struggle with the cost of tuition and books, and this surcharge may prevent, or further delay, some of our students’ pursuit of a college education.”
Robert Shackleford, who heads the North Carolina Association of Community College President, said the money would be used to help community colleges buy equipment for programs like advanced manufacturing and health care that are in high demand.
Those fields “are two of the most equipment intensive programs we can offer, which means it takes a lot of money,” said Shackleford, who also serves as president of Randolph Community College in Asheboro.
Shackleford added that because every community college has different considerations, it might be best for each school to decide whether a surcharge was needed.
Any decision on the surcharge would have to be approved by the state’s community college board.
Priya Balakrishnan, president of N.C. Comprehensive Community College Student Government Association, agreed that there are colleges that do need the money, but she is opposed to the proposed surcharge.
“There are other alternatives that the state could consider that could increase the revenue stream without inconsistently increasing tuition,” Balakrishnan said in a statement. “Though it may be a useful opportunity for community colleges that have a need for funds, the students think it will break the bond that all N.C. Community Colleges currently have.”
Tuition rates, set by the N.C. General Assembly for all 58 colleges, have risen by 35 percent since 2010-2011. Last year, state lawmakers raised tuition by $4 per credit hour, or up to $128 a year for a full-time student. The increase, sought by Gov. Pat McCrory, took effect in the current spring semester.
Last September, RCC announced a plan to offer free college tuition and fees to residents of Richmond and Scotland counties in an initiative called the RichmondCC Guarantee. According to the Guarantee, any student who meets certain requirements will be guaranteed two years free tuition at RCC.
“You cannot grow our college on the backs of our students who are struggling to start new lives and careers,” McInnis said. “We are fortunate to serve a community that supports the college and has provided matching funds and donations that have allowed us to continue to grow and serve more students.
“Our students confront a variety of obligations that conflict with their educational goals. I will not support additional fees that may come between our students and their goals.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023