By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Concord University Board of Governors voted Thursday to increase tuition and room and board rates for students while maintaining the school’s financial situation is not as dire as “it has been categorized.”
The board voted to raise tuition for students by 5 percent — roughly $143 per term per student — and also increased costs for living on campus as well as campus meals by 1.75 percent or $65 per term for full-time and in-state students
During a meeting of the board in Marsh Hall, Dr. Chuck Becker, vice president for business and finance at the institution, said students were only being charged $0.20 for every $1 the university had cut from its budget.
Becker told the board the university had lost $3.5 million in state funding due to reductions in appropriations for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. As a result, Becker said the university’s finance and facilities committee had made $2.8 million in cuts at the university and was looking to raise additional funds by increasing tuition and room and board costs.
“It’s not nearly as dramatic or draconian as you think,” Becker said. “It seems like a lot of money, but when you see the overall budget it’s not.”
Board Vice-Chair Lane Bailey, who joined the meeting via phone, said he felt the increase was necessary but should not be done lightly.
“I think the fact that we are raising tuition less than other institutions shouldn’t be something that gives us too much satisfaction,” Bailey said. “Tuition is stagnant or dropping, gifts to the university are dropping and we are raising tuition. There are huge challenges we face in this vote and others down the road.”
The board of governor’s also voted to form an audit committee for the university given recent financial concerns. Board Member David Barnette said an audit committee would help look into budget issues.
“There has not be a mechanism to look into issues such as those recently raised in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Barnette said. “That is not something the financial committee can do. The job of the audit committee will be to look into these issues and address them and report back. Almost all non-profits, organizations and universities have these audit committees. We are just a little behind on that.”
Becker said the school’s financial situation has been of concern to many both on and off campus.
“There has been a lot of conversation and justifiably so,” Becker said. “They see the voids and wonder why we aren’t spending our money here or why we aren’t spending it there. Some people get the idea that these things have crept up on us, which is not true. We don’t have a lot of cash but we have enough to operate on. People have opinions and I don’t want to tell people they are worrying about nothing. However, it is not as bad as it has been categorized.
Becker said infrastructure needs, declines in enrollment in retention, declines in alumni gifts and donations, and the loss of state and federal funding have all negatively impacted the school’s budget in recent years. However, he said this is a situation many universities and colleges are facing.
“We are not unique in the landscape of higher education as far as finances,” he said. “Our revenues are down, but our expenses are down. This is the point of the year where the budget is the tightest. This is time of the year where we have to tighten the belt and we are doing so.”
Becker suggested the university narrow its strategic plan and “quit trying to be too many things to too many people,” but he also said the university’s various departments had been willing to work with the budget committee on making necessary cuts.
Concord Athletics Director Kevin Garrett said his department has been conservative in their spending during the past few years.
“This situation out there a couple of weeks ago involved information released to the press and to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph,” Garrett said. “This information was inaccurate and incomplete. I want the board to be aware of the budget.”
Garrett said in 2010 the athletic department returned $44,000 to the university and came in 4 percent under budget, in 2011 returned $75,000 to the board and came in 2 percent under budget and in 2012 came in 2 percent under budget returning $74,000 to the university.
“My coaches have been great stewards of the budget,” he said. “What we are spending our budget on is well worth the investment.”
Garrett also noted that a recent law has required coaches who teach less than 50 percent of the time to be moved out of the faculty classification and into the non-classified employees classification, shifting numbers in the budget.
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org