Lone Star College board of trustees approved several tuition fee increases, Hurricane Harvey recovery measures at March 1 meeting

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The Lone Star College System board of trustees heard an update on the financial impact of Hurricane Harvey and approved increases to the tuition fee schedule for the fall semester, among other business at its monthly meeting on March 1.

Tuition fee increases

The board of trustees approved a tuition fee schedule that will affect students who live outside of the district by a 8-1 margin. The cost per credit hour for those students will increase from $85 to $95 per credit hour. The fee for international and out-of-state students will increase from $100 to $130 per credit hour. LSCS Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Mott said these increases will generate a $3.2 million increase in revenue. The new tuition rates will take effect this fall.

Mott said these increases were necessary because students who live in the district are subsidizing students who live outside of it. According to the meeting agenda, out-of-district students do not pay local property taxes to the system—which makes up about 40 percent of LSCS revenue—while out-of-state student and international students do not generate contact hour funding from the state, which comprises about 21 percent of LSCS’s revenue. Contact hours are the number of hours students spend in the classroom, and determine the amount of state funding the district receives.

Board Vice Chairman Kyle Scott, who voted against the measure, said he would not vote in favor of the measure until the board has a conversation regarding what percentage of their revenue should come from property taxes as opposed to tuition and fees. Head said this conversation will take place at an upcoming board of trustees retreat.

Along with these increases, the board also approved a measure increasing the differential fee, which offsets the costs incurred for each subject area above what is covered by tuition, according to the meeting agenda. This fee was increased by $2. For example, the current differential fee per credit for mathematics is $9, but it will be $11 in the fall semester. Mott said this change will generate a $1.9 million increase in revenue.

LSCS Chancellor Stephen Head said despite these increases, LSCS remains one of the more affordable community colleges in the state and ranks in the lower-third of community college tuition rates in Texas.

FEMA reimbursement

Mott provided the board with an update on the college system’s reimbursement process from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages sustained during Hurricane Harvey. So, far LSCS has sent a worksheet requesting $9.6 million in reimbursement to FEMA and is working on its second worksheet, which requests about $11.7 million. In total, the college will request about $34 million from FEMA in reimbursements. But Mott said because the FEMA funds are reimbursements, LSCS must first spend the money and then compile all necessary documentation to send to FEMA.

Mott also said that FEMA has completed all of its site visits to LSCS facilities that sustained damage during the storm.

LSC-Kingwood

The board also approved several items relating to renovation at LSC-Kingwood, which was the campus hit the hardest by Hurricane Harvey.

The board approved a measure increasing the amount LSCS can spend on design services for LSC-Kingwood renovation to $1.07 million. The board also approved a measure giving Head the authority to execute a contract with a construction manager for work at LSC-Kingwood.

Mott said the goal is to begin construction at LSC-Kingwood in early summer and to fully reopen the campus in January. In the meantime, LSCS is working on obtaining temporary classroom space. The plan is to use the second floor of the library by early June and some portable, modular classrooms by early July.

Financial report

During the financial report, Mott also told the board that because of a decrease in credit hours, LSCS’s revenue from tuition and fees is $3 million less than what was budgeted. Head said presidents and vice chancellors have been making cuts throughout the system to offset this deficit. He also said he expects credit hour numbers to pick back up in the summer.

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Zac Ezzone
Zac Ezzone began his career as a journalist in northeast Ohio, where he freelanced for a statewide magazine and local newspaper. In April 2017, he moved from Ohio to Texas to join Community Impact Newspaper. He works as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition where he covers issues within local school districts and Harris County.
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