A tuition increase of 1.8 percent was approved by the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees today.
The increase will be applied, starting this fall, to all tuition rates
across the board, including job training, construction, dual enrollment, preschool rates and more.
“We are … recommending a $2 increase to our standard residential billing unit rate, moving from $111 to $113,” said Lisa Freiburger, VP of Finance and Administration, to the board. “Non-resident is going up $4, recommended, and a $6 increase for out-of-state rates.”
At the same time, Freiburger added that the federal Pell Grant will increase by $105 to $5,920 for for the 2017-18 school year, with that full amount being awarded to eligible full-time students. The federal Pell Grant is a needs-based award, and last year 33.1 percent of the GRCC student population received some type of Pell Grant.
Trustee Cynthia Bristol was the only one of out of the six trustees present to vote no to the tuition increase.
“I understand that the college needs to have money to function,” Bristol said. “However, there are concerns that I have about students.”
Bristol was previously a music professor at GRCC for 22 years. She referenced research from Inside Higher Ed about how students struggle in school because they can’t afford enough food, or housing, and many other personal issues. Bristol is also on the Strategic Leadership Team at GRCC, that she said has been getting student food pantries set up across campus.
“Another statement that was made in Inside Higher Ed is that nearly half of community college students report that lack of finances causes them to withdraw,” Bristol said. “In my previous years as an instructor, I saw that firsthand. Students were coming to class, they didn’t have enough money for medicine, they were ill, they didn’t have enough money to go out to a doctor.
“I will be voting no today on the increase in tuition because what I would like is to have us as a board look at some options that we may have to somehow come to terms with keeping the college financially stable and also helping our students, because we have many students who need our help.”
This year GRCC’s President Steven Ender received a 2 percent raise in his base pay, and full-time faculty received approximately a 1.4 percent salary increase.
Trustee Kenyatta Brame referenced the college’s financial status compared to other community colleges in the state as to why he voted yes for the tuition increase.
“When you do the analysis of what our costs are compared to other institutions in the state, we are below the average and we compare quite well,” Brame said. “We are offering a product at a great value.”
Trustee and chairperson David Koetje assured those in the room at the public meeting that there was lengthy discussion about the increase before today’s vote. The board discussed the tuition increase for about an hour at their retreat earlier today.
“This board took these conversations very seriously,” Koetje said. “We appreciate this college, we appreciate every student we serve, we appreciate the economic diversity of students that we serve.”
Freiburger also said in the board’s retreat earlier in the day that the GRCC Foundation will give out over $1 million in scholarships next year.
Trustee Richard Stewart was not present at today’s meeting.