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Expected drop in enrollment prompts SFCC to raise fees

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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe Community College is preparing for a steep decline in enrollment over the summer and fall, prompting the college’s Governing Board to raise tuition and fees Friday by 22% to offset the financial losses.

The board approved the price hike by a vote of 4-1, with chairman Jack Sullivan casting the lone dissenting vote.

SFCC President Becky Rowley said the college is predicting an “unprecedented” decline in enrollment – 50% for summer classes and 30% in the fall.

These declines are expected to adversely affect the college’s revenue.

In response, the college raised tuition by $1 per credit hour. Along with an increase in course and technology fees, an in-state student will go from paying $58 in tuition and fees per credit hour to $71, an increase of 22%.

Sullivan said he thought the college’s proposal raised costs too quickly, especially as thousands of New Mexicans struggle with the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m still concerned that, in a time when we’re budgeting for a lowering enrollment … we’re proposing such a substantial increase in tuition and fees,” Sullivan said, adding that the price could exacerbate the problem.

Rowley responded that the college’s comparatively affordable tuition makes the increase more bearable for students.

“Twenty-two percent sounds like a large amount, but when our tuition is as low as it is, even a small tweak to the number is a proportionally high percentage increase,” she said.

Before the increase, SFCC had the seventh-lowest tuition price among any college in New Mexico. The new price drops it down to eighth, although some colleges are also expected to raise their tuition.

The full scale of the college’s financial losses remains unknown as administrators wait for a special legislative session to take place in June, during which state funding is expected to take a large cut.

SFCC Chief Financial Officer Nick Telles said they already expect the state to withhold 10% of funding distributed in May and June, more than $180,000.

Rowley said portions of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget will have to be adjusted after the special session when the total cut to state funding becomes more clear.

The board and Rowley spent the first portion of Friday’s meeting in executive session, where they discussed the possibility of cutting certain positions and programs from the college. Exactly what is being considered remains unclear.

However, Craig Donalson, who teaches ceramics at SFCC, thinks adjunct professors like him will be the first to go in any cut.

“We’re the shock absorber,” he said. “There’s going to be a significant tear-up of adjunct-taught classes.”

Rowley said there is a chance in-person classes could be canceled if the pandemic continues, something Donalson said would make it nearly impossible for him, along with others teaching craft-oriented courses, to do his job.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” he said.

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