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TX Community Colleges facing major cuts: TJC may double tuition

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POSTED: Friday, February 25, 2011 - 7:32pm

UPDATED: Saturday, February 26, 2011 - 12:26am

Community colleges are known for being close to home and affordable, but state proposals make it a challenge to keep it that way. Lawmakers are looking at making major cuts in community colleges across the state.

At Tyler Junior College, the proposals mean cutting $5,877,348 out of employee health insurance, $1,132,581 out of their employee retirement match, and $127,693 out of the funding formula. This mixed with unfunded growth of $7,989,339 makes a grand total of more than $15 million slashed--which is a 32.6% loss from 2010.

The state already trimmed five percent from all community colleges last year. Dr. Mike Metke, President of TJC says they had a hiring freeze and even cancelled one of their graduation ceremonies for the cuts. They also raised property taxes 33% to take care of maintenance tax notes, and the board promised the public they wouldn't raise taxes again this year or next. "We've promised, and we're going to stick to that promise that we're not going to raise taxes," says Dr. Metke.

Without raising taxes, TJC is left with two options: raising tuition and cutting jobs. Dr. Metke says, "We're going to raise tuition even higher. We don't want to do that, but we have to. In order to fully make up for the cuts, we would have to virtually double or tuition and to make up for our unfunded enrollment, we'd have to triple our tuition ...more than triple."

TJC's Chief Financial Advisor Sarah Van Cleef says along with raising tuition, they will look internally and make some hard decisions regarding employees and programs. Dr. Metke says the state's proposals cut more from community colleges than 4-year schools. "The bulk of students now are at community colleges. We're already doing the heavy lifting, and we're willing to do more. All that we would ask is that we be treated as full members of the higher-education family and that we get the same proportion of cuts, not more," he says.

While tuition hikes could spark state-wide, state proposals also slash financial aid. More tuition and less financial aid leaves many Texas students are nervous.

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The first new rule says you HAVE to have insurance. Both my husband and I have pre-existing conditions, and although the new bill says we can't be denied coverage because of it. So far, the cheapest health insurance we've been able to find is called "Wise Health Insurance" search for it online if you are pre-existing conditions.

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