Valencia to Freeze Student Tuition for the Fall

During a visit to Tallahassee last February, Valencia President Sanford Shugart told lawmakers it would be a mistake to raise college tuition rates at a time when federal financial aid is constrained by the budget problems in Washington.

Today he made good on those intentions, when he presented Valencia trustees with a budget overview for the coming year that holds tuition at current levels. While trustees approved the plan, they will still need to formally approve the college’s operating budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year when they meet on June 19.

At $99.06 per credit hour for Florida residents, Valencia’s tuition is currently less than five other Central Florida community colleges, including Seminole State College and Polk and Brevard community colleges, and is about half the cost of a state university.

“Valencia has held the line on student costs, even at some pain to the college,” said Shugart.

While good news for students, employees of Valencia will not see a salary increase under the new proposal. The college also plans to cut $3.8 million in expenses through reductions to travel, supplies and the number of adjunct faculty and part-time staff.

Valencia leaders have declined to raise tuition although authorized to do so by the Florida Legislature, which gave colleges in the Florida College System—including Valencia—the option of implementing a 5 percent tuition hike.

Valencia’s trustees applauded the administration’s budget outline.

“I think it is a thoughtful and considered approach to trying to solve a number of problems,” said trustee Lew Oliver.

Shugart said that the budget scenario presented is a short-term solution and cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“We really need to start moderating tuition and investing in the system again,” said Shugart.

In the past, state dollars funded about 65 percent of a student’s education at Valencia, with students funding the rest. But in recent years that model has shifted. The state now pays about 38 percent of the cost with students paying 62 percent.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, trustees expressed frustration with the way the state funds two-year colleges. Over the last decade lawmakers have cut financing or not allocated enough to keep pace with growing enrollment, while expecting colleges to make up the difference by increasing tuition. In 2011-2012, Valencia was next to last in state funding per full-time student – and yet the college leads the nation in the number of associate degrees awarded.

Not only is the college committed to keeping tuition as low as possible, it is also looking at other ways to hold down costs for students, including discounting textbooks and exploring textbook alternatives.

In the last two years, students took advantage of a 20 percent discount on textbooks sold through the college’s bookstores. The total savings to students fell just shy of $2 million at $1,975,000.

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