Fort Lewis College is considering hefty tuition increases coupled with budget cuts to compensate for an expected steep drop in state funding.
In an early discussion of the 2009-10 FLC budget Tuesday, very little was off the table for the college's Board of Trustees.
Preliminary budget models contemplate a 7 to 9 percent increase in resident tuition and a 5 to 7 percent increase in nonresident tuition. The college also is considering moves to cut the budget, including not filling vacant positions.
FLC is dealing with an expected drop in state higher education funding of about $452 million. FLC's share of that is estimated at about $9 million. The college won't know the impact until the Legislature finalizes its budget. A $452 million cut would constitute 63 percent of state higher education funding.
"The situation is very, very dire right now," said Steve Schwartz, FLC vice president for finance and administration.
If FLC increases its resident tuition 9 percent, the price would increase from $2,846 to $3,102 per year. A 7 percent increase to nonresident tuition would take it from $15,162 to $16,223 per year.
Federal stimulus money is expected to provide FLC with just over $1 million. State lawmakers also are considering taking money from the state's worker's compensation fund administered by Pinnacol Assurance, and that could further narrow FLC's budget shortfall.
Leaving vacant positions unfilled would save FLC $1.5 million per year. College officials also have discussed a furlough, but FLC cannot furlough its classified staff without an emergency declaration from Gov. Bill Ritter.
"Whatever solution we enact is going to have to be some combination of impacts on tuition, impacts on pay and impacts on other budget items," Schwartz said.
Peter Decker, a board member who participated by teleconference, said it would be "unwise" to cut faculty salaries, which are below the average of FLC's peers.
The situation could worsen if enrollment declines. FLC President Brad Bartel told the board that early numbers indicate enrollment will be flat or down by as many as 100 students in 2009-10.
"The board is going to have to make hard choices soon," Bartel said.
College officials said FLC cannot increase its nonresident tuition much more without pricing itself out of that lucrative market.
"One of the things that's worrying me is that we're going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg," said Leonel Silva, a board member who participated by teleconference.
The college also expects higher demand for student financial aid in 2009-10.