Following a presentation by Yavapai College Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services Clint Ewell, the Yavapai College District Governing Board voted 4-1 on Feb. 14 to approve a 5 percent tuition increase for the 2017-18 school year.
Board member Deb McCasland, who represents Camp Verde and Cornville for Yavapai College District 2, cast the sole vote against the increase. Connie Harris, the other board member representing the Verde Valley, including the Cottonwood area, Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek, voted in favor.
“I don’t like to see us increasing the cost for our students every time,” McCasland said Monday, Feb. 20. “Our enrollment’s dropping down. I asked if there was a correlation .... Clint Ewell didn’t seem to think so.”
According to McCasland, speaking as an individual board member, the college should be tasked with being more efficient rather than increasing tuition to build under-used facilities.
Ewell responded to a query concerning the college’s efficiency by email on Feb. 23.
“Factors in approving the tuition increase included the long-term decline in state financial support for community college funding, the governing board’s desire to avoid a property tax increase, the college’s commitment to supporting and creating quality programs such as Culinary and Hospitality and maintaining quality facilities and instruction.”
According to McCasland, Ewell and other YC administrators use the upswing of the U.S. economy as a justification for increasing tuition, but the economy of Yavapai County is still significantly down compared to the rest of the nation.
“Every year they’ve been budgeting for an increase in tuition and a decrease in students,” McCasland said. “For me as a board member, it’s frustrating.”
Ewell, however, sees the increase as a net positive, especially in light of the value of instruction at the college.
“It’s also important to note that even with the 5 percent increase, YC has the third-lowest tuition in the state of Arizona, which, according to CollegeBoard, has the fifth- lowest community college tuition rates in the country,” Ewell stated.
On Monday, Feb. 27, YCDGB Chairman Ray Sigafoos said that yearly increases are largely due to increasing operating costs, including facility creation and management, technology improvements and employee health care.
According to Sigafoos, such costs are either passed on to the community via an increased tax levy or increased tuition. The board has erred in the favor of the taxpayer.
Harris responded to a query for comment, but asked for all questions to be referred to Sigafoos. YC President Penny Wills declined to comment.