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GRCC to propose tiered tuition in culinary, nursing and dental programs to bring in $850,000

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Diana Kooistra overlooks as Ashley Smith inspects Lanny Miller's teeth. Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez

By Jacquelyn Zeman – Chief Web Editor

The cost to study culinary arts, nursing and dental at Grand Rapids Community College is expected to increase next fall, as college administrators say they plan to implement a new tiered tuition system.

The plan, which was recommended by an ad-hoc budget committee appointed by GRCC President Steven Ender, includes a recommendation for tuition that, if implemented, would bring in an estimated $850,000 of additional revenue during the 2015-16 academic year. There are many other recommendations included in the proposed changes that would either increase revenue or reduce expenses.

Lisa Freiburger, GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration said students currently in the program would be grandfathered in, and any new students would have the tiered tuition applied to their tuition.

“Our thought behind our recommendation was we looked at the highest cost programs on campus,” Freiburger said. “We are not trying to make them balanced, we are not trying to make revenue in line with expense exactly…because we know there are program needs. We want to have programs thrive…we are targeting to look at those highest cost programs and make them a bit more in line with the others.”

The culinary and dental programs would be increasing from $106 per credit hour, which is what every GRCC student currently pays for each credit, regardless of the class, to $140 per credit hour. The nursing program would be increasing to $178 per credit hour.

Chef Gilles Renusson shows Alexis Rice how to mix coloring into the molten sugar. Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez
Chef Gilles Renusson shows Alexis Rice how to mix coloring into the molten sugar. Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez

Kara Faasen, 21, of Grand Rapids has been a culinary student at GRCC for the past year. Faasen believes that tiered tuition plan is a good idea, given the opportunities the program offers.

“I think it’s great they’re raising the tuition just for the program’s sake,” Faasen said. “The school provides so much for students, very costly supplies for a minimal price. For the students they might feel shafted but with higher tuition it might also mean new opportunities for those students. Also the culinary program provides plenty of scholarship opportunities if a student is struggling financially.”

GRCC culinary program director, Dan Gendler, has been a faculty member at the college since 2004 and says he does not think raising the prices of the culinary program will effect the enrollment in the program, given that price will still be significantly more affordable than other culinary programs.

“There is a fine balance between offering a value in college education and being fiscally responsible,” Gendler said. “Its no secret that there are programs that are very expensive at any college…we are in the top 20 culinary colleges in the nation. Our peers are charging $60,000 to $80,000 sometimes for the same degree.”

Diana Kooistra overlooks as Ashley Smith inspects Lanny Miller's teeth.  Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez
Diana Kooistra overlooks as Ashley Smith inspects Lanny Miller’s teeth. Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez

The nursing program at GRCC will have the most significant change in overall tuition price, as the proposed increase would raise it $72 per credit hour.

Desiree Jackson, 25 of Grand Rapids said she did not think it would be a good idea to raise the price of the program, given how many additional fees the students in the program must pay.

“I feel that a lot of people will seek education elsewhere if they up the tuition because a reason that a lot of people do come to (GR)CC is the cost is not as high as other colleges can be,” Jackson said. “A lot of students will probably say ‘the heck with college.’ They probably won’t even fulfill their degree because they can’t afford it.”

Michelle Richter, director of the nursing department at GRCC said students will have additional expenses throughout their time in the program.

“I believe that a significant change without thoughtful consideration to those in the program and on our list will have an impact,” Richter said. “Consideration needs to be taken into account to enable students to adequately plan and budget for any type of tuition hike, but especially one that would be an increase significantly above the current costs.”

Amy Ryke, 21, of Grand Rapids has been in the dental program at GRCC since this past fall and isn’t sure about the tiered system.

“I know our materials are more expensive,” Ryke said. “There is a lot more involved with expenses and our clinic…I am not sure if it is fair.”

Mike Campo, a professor from the GRCC dental program for the past 22 years said that he feels students in the program will understand the reason behind the tuition increase.

“With the tuition increase that seems to be coming, I feel bad that our students are going to be hurt by that, and they are going to have to end up paying more,” Campo said. “On the other hand, I realize, and I think they realize that when they do graduate they will end up in a fairly high paying job and at the end of the day, it will have been worth it.”

Ender said that he does think there needs to be a difference in cost between these programs and regular classes at GRCC.

“I will clearly be advocating with the board to pass tuition rates that would be a differential rate for those three high cost programs,” Ender said. “That is something I think we need to do. I think we have to realize that some programs are much more expensive than others.”

Although the ad-hoc budget committee has proposed the idea of tiered tuition and Ender has approved it, the plan cannot be implemented until the board of trustees approves it.

The proposal will go before the board of trustees at 4:15 p.m. during the March 16 meeting in the board chambers room on the fifth floor of the Main Building.

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