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April 15, 2011

Weatherford College raises tuition

WEATHERFORD — Weatherford College trustees and a room full of residents gathered Thursday afternoon to discuss the biggest issue hanging over WC right now — an increase in tuition.

In last month’s regular meeting, Andra Cantrell, vice president of financial and administrative affairs, using data and estimates based on the likely cuts in Texas education funding proposed an in-district tuition increase of $6 more per credit hour, an increase of 9.23 percent. Tuition for out-of-state students would grow 9.18 percent with tuition for students in Wise County growing 9 percent and out-of-state rates increasing 10.20 percent. Overall, the raises would generate a net income of $827,589.

After consulting with president Kevin Eaton, Cantrell recommended to the board some changes in the tuition increase.

“The last time the board met, we thought a 9 percent raise would be enough,” Cantrell told trustees. “Now, Dr. Eaton has asked me to go back over the figures and add $300,000.”

Thursday, Cantrell presented figures that represented an in-district tuition growth of 12.31 percent, an out-of-district growth of 12.99 to 13.27 percent, and an out-of-state increase of 13.61 percent.

“We won’t know for sure until the legislature gives us the exact numbers, but until we get a clear picture, we’re trying to stay at the state average [for tuition].”

After encouragement from chairman Frank Martin to make a motion regarding the 13 percent tuition increase based on the latest figures, silence ensued. Martin followed with encouragement to make a motion to vote on the previous estimates as presented March 10. Trey Cobb made the motion, Trev Dixon seconded, and the board voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

“We’re talking about restructuring and making changes in workloads for staff, as well as tuition fees to make the numbers work,” Cobb said.

Cobb was among several members who spoke out against raising taxes in favor of handling the matter internally.

“It’s a horrible thing to be put in this position,” vice chairman Joel Watson said. “We either raise taxes or we raise tuition, and the students suffer.”

To kick off the meeting, the board welcomed speakers during open forum.

A member of the WC faculty, Dr. Rickey Harman, stood to express his thoughts on the tuition increase, as well as to give criticism on some of the board’s decisions.

“Dr. Eaton keeps telling us that we’re one big happy family, but it feels like it’s turning into we versus they, faculty versus the board,” he said. “We’ve got to put students first, not always the taxpayers.”

The instructor also provided a list of possible solutions on the table — giving faculty extra classes, cutting salaries across the board, cutting out extras, filling classrooms, gutting the athletic program and cutting scholarships.

“That’s just about all going to hurt the student’s education,” he said. “I’m wondering why you’re sitting here doing nothing. We’re here to try and fight through this.

“We need the leaders to step up.”

Martin responded by looking at the legislature’s lack of handing down a financial decision.

“We don’t know exactly what [the state] will do,” Martin said. “I would say that everything you listed is on the table, but this is not the opportune time presently to make those terminations.

“People get passionate when it comes to money and I know that it’s not a happy situation.”

Watson seconded Martin’s sentiments, expressing his opposition to raising taxes.

“I think the taxpayers will and should be the last ones to cough up [extra money],” he said. “It’s not their fault and it’s not your fault. But we need to clean house here first.”

Cobb was also opposed to the idea of raising taxes, adding that WC “needs to fix the problems on campus first.”

“That has not been done yet, so I’m not ready to vote to raise taxes.”

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