BOR admits rate hike proposal on the table, passage contingent on new budget
Students at the Northern Marianas College may face higher tuition rates next semester if a proposal to increase existing fees is approved by the Board of Regents.
BOR chair Frank Rabauliman confirmed with Saipan Tribune that a management recommendation to adjust tuition and fees is on the board’s table now.
NMC charges resident students $95 per credit and international students $190 per credit.
“We haven’t made a definite decision on this proposal yet. We certainly going to do first the budget process and depending on what kind of resources that we get as a result of the budget calls, then we will make a decision,” he said.
Until NMC knows exactly what it will get for next fiscal year’s budget, any action on the tuition hike proposal will be on hold.
The proposed tuition hike is at the fiscal committee level for now.
NMC is asking for a budget of $7.9 million for fiscal year 2015—some $3.1 million higher than what it is getting now, $4.6 million.
NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart told Saipan Tribune Friday that if the budget level remains the same, or if NMC gets an amount lower than the nearly $8 million it is asking for, this will force the college to turn to its students.
“Right now, we need $8 million, otherwise we will be cutting programs and services, which also means eliminating people. We would not be in this situation if we were receiving the average of what other states receive for their higher education. This is why we’re always pushing the Legislature to look at the national data to come up with a best budget decision for NMC,” she said.
Or, because the budget is limited for higher education, “maybe we can significantly lower the number of enrollees at NMC or put a cap on the enrollment, which is not fair to our students.”
By how much will the tuition rate go up? “Whatever is the difference [in the budget], that’s the amount we’re going to raise in our tuition,” Hart said.
For example, if the Legislature approves $5 million for NMC this new fiscal year, the difference of $3 million will be collected from tuition and fees.
“[This will happen] because the state has not been fulfilling its responsibility. So tuition rate will depend on how much we will get for our budget,” she said.
Besides looking at the national data, the Legislature must also use “performance-based funding” in allocating budget for agencies, Hart said. She cited the significant progress NMC made reaffirming its accreditation, which justifies the progress it has made over the years.
She revealed that at the national level, states provide 10.5 percent of the state’s budget to higher education. In Guam, its higher education is believed to be receiving close to that percentage compared to NMC, which is usually budgeted at a significantly lower amount.
Board of Regents chair Rabauliman described as “a tough call” any decision the board will make in coming months.
“Because we’re looking at certain long-term plans [in our budget submission], it’s going to be a tough call for the board. Once we find out exactly how much we’re getting, then we will have to revisit and go back to the drawing board which of these long-term plans we can sustain and continue to pursue and which one will be put on the side,” he said.
He said, though, that the board is “very adamant” in pursuing long-term plans such as the facilities master plan for the college.
Included in NMC’s proposed $7.9 million budget for fiscal year 2015 is s much-awaited increase in the salaries of college personnel. If approved, this will bring NMC salaries to within 85 percent of the average salary of peer institutions. The projected impact of this salary adjustment is about $886,000, of which $200,000 is solely for faculty members.
Hart said that NMC last adjusted personnel salaries in the 1990s. The disparity and low wages offered to employees have been blamed for the high turnover rates in both management and administrative positions.
“One major expectation for NMC is to be sustainable. It’s a major accreditation requirement. We’ve got to maintain our people. We’ve have no salary increases since 1990s and we can’t do that anymore. NMC needs to pay its people a fair and competitive wage,” she said.
Hart emphasized that there’s probably no better place to put resources than in higher education because of the future impact on the workforce.
“How does the government expect NMC to step up to the plate and handle all this required areas for employment of educated workforce if we’re not getting even half of what other states are receiving?”