Austin Community College considers lowering out-of-district fees

The Austin Community College board of trustees, from left:  Sean Hassan, Place 4;  Julie Ann Nitsch, Place 9; Betty Hwang, Place 8; Mark Williams, Place 1; Gigi Bryant, Place 2; CEO and President Richard Rhodes; Barbara Mink, Place 7; Nicole Eversmann, Place 5; Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Place 6; Nan McRaven, Place 3

The Austin Community College board of trustees, from left: Sean Hassan, Place 4; Julie Ann Nitsch, Place 9; Betty Hwang, Place 8; Mark Williams, Place 1; Gigi Bryant, Place 2; CEO and President Richard Rhodes; Barbara Mink, Place 7; Nicole Eversmann, Place 5; Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Place 6; Nan McRaven, Place 3

The Austin Community College board of trustees on Monday considered a policy change that would effectively reduce out-of-district fees by $77 a credit hour.

The proposal, which would change the community college system's out-of-district—meaning students who don't live in the blue area shown on the ACC district map—fees to three times the in-district fee, would cut about $4.5 million from the budget, according to Neil Vickers, executive vice president of finance and administration.

It would also make for a simpler policy, Vickers said.

The current policy is based on the ratio of annual property tax revenues to annual in-district credit hours. That means as property taxes go up, so do out-of-district fees.

Fall 2016 out-of-district fees for a student taking 12 semester credit hours—the minimum amount needed to be considered a full-time student—is $3,552, which doesn't include the $804 tuition.

In fall 2012, the out-of-district fee was $162 per credit hour. In fall 2016, it was $296 per credit hour.

The Texas college with the next highest out-of-district fee for a full-time student is Tyler Junior College, which charges $1,378.



He said traditionally, out-of-district student enrollment has grown quickly, but in the last two to three years, that number has declined. Since spring 2012, there has been a nearly 18 percent decrease in the number of out-of-district students enrolled, according to ACC's fact book.

If the ACC board of trustees votes to make this policy change, they must decide whether to phase the $4.5 million cuts in over time—perhaps three years, Vickers said—or cut the budget at one time.

He said while he's not a fan of spanning the cuts over several years, trustees could see the data on the impacts of the cuts each year if the phasing would be applied.

Trustees will vote on this policy change at their April 3 meeting.

Vickers said based on the current forecast, in-district tuition and fees would likely not need to be raised this year. This would be the fourth year in a row that in-district tuition and fees remain untouched.

Fiscal Year 2018 budget discussions are underway at ACC, with the board expected to receive its first briefing in the revenue portion of the budget in April.

The board is expected to adopt its tuition rates in May and the budget in July.

"Obviously it’s very early in the [budget] process," Vickers said.