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GRCC Board of Trustees discuss budget, possible tuition increase of less than 1%

(Photo Courtesy of GRCC YouTube page)

The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees held a meeting on Monday, Feb. 21 to discuss the budget plan as well as tuition costs for the upcoming school year. 

Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger was the first person to the podium at the meeting to review the budget for the 2021-22 year and discuss the future budget for the 2022-23 year. 

Tuition for the 2022-23 year is still being discussed by administrators, who will be making a tuition recommendation at the next board meeting which is scheduled for March 21, but according to Freiburger they are tentatively looking at less than a 1% increase for the next school year.  

“We will bring a formal tuition recommendation to you in March for your consideration, so I want to emphasize to you that we are not done,” Freiburger said. “As we continue to learn more about what revenues and expenses will look like this year, but we are certainly very mindful of where we still sit this pandemic and want to be very cautious with student finances and are looking at a very modest tuition increase, potentially right now an in-district rate of a dollar increase which would be less than 1%.” 

Concerning tuition, GRCC President Bill Pink said,  “1% and, in this case less than 1%, that’s really, from many of my colleagues, the low end as far as what you see.” 

The budget plan for the upcoming 2022-23 school year will be discussed in more depth at the Budget Work Session on May 2 and will be scheduled for approval by the board in June. 

The first topic discussed with the budget was the tuition of the 2021-22 year. There was a 4% increase in tuition revenue from the 2021 second summer session to the fall semester, but from fall to 2022 winter semester tuition revenue remained flat. There was a total increase of $1.7 million mostly because of enrollment rates.

They also noted that the college spent $1.3 million more than the previous year on adjunct and overload employee pay due to increased number of course offerings and enrollment. 

Vice Chairperson Kenyatta Brame then asked if GRCC has lost staff due to people retiring or leaving their job because of stress at this time. 

“We have a significant employee retirement and resignation,” Freiburger said in response to Brame’s question. “(We have) a large number of retirements, more than we would ever see in a year. We have a number of vacancies, so we are seeing an impact from just the lack of labor market.”  

Pink then mentioned that GRCC is taking steps to hire new employees like the recent job fair, advertising and employee stipend by giving bonuses to active employees at GRCC. 

The Board of Trustees approved the mid-year budget review. 

Next, Director of Purchasing Mansfield Matthewson and Director of I.T. Enterprise Applications Mary Jo Chisholm gave an update to strategic goal five: Infrastructure and Sustainability. They played a video discussing three college action projects under the strategic goal including improving campus safety and security, investigating the effectiveness of current enterprise, and implementing campus wide sustainability. 

Then, Pink went into his comments about the legislative luncheon as well introducing the new Michigan Community College Association President Brandy Johnson. Johnson praised administrators for their work and talked about her goals as the new president. Johnson is making a goal to visit all 28 boards of community colleges in Michigan in her first year of the job. 

GRCC Faculty Association President Frank Conner gave an update giving a compelling speech on the importance of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to close the meeting.

“What I want to talk about today is the whole issue of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Conner said. “… The reason I want to talk about it is not because there’s an issue, not because this is in response to some incident… Part of my role is to provide a faculty perspective.” 

Conner laid out his points from three lenses including personal, theory, and the applied.  

“I stand here as a privileged individual because I am in this world a white, heterosexual male,” Conner said. “I have never growing up had to think about my race, never. Every store that I went into as a kid, they had toys that looked just like me… When I got old enough to buy a house I didn’t have to worry about whether I was going to be included, be allowed into a neighborhood. I could choose where I wanted to live. I never thought about walking through the mall holding hands with my girlfriend if somebody was going to judge me because I was holding hands with my girlfriend.

“It’s about understanding how systems privilege some whether it has to do with religion or race or sexuality or you fill in the blank,” Conner continued. “… What I have to realize is that now that I know it, I have to be aware of it and I have to acknowledge it. I have to do what I can as a professor of an institution of higher ed to create an equitable environment.” 

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 21 with a work session starting at 1:30 p.m. followed by a regular meeting at 4:15 p.m. 

To watch the full board meeting, click here.

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