June 10, 2020

The East Central Community College Board of Trustees this week approved the college’s 2020-2021 budget plan aimed at offsetting a more than $550,000 reduction in state appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The budget plan, which includes expenditure reductions and revenue increases, was approved at the board’s June meeting held by conference call on June 9.

While the college has not officially been notified of its state appropriations for the new fiscal year, administrators felt comfortable enough with the projected $558,000 reduction to finalize an initial budget.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has presented us all with unprecedented challenges these past three months, and that includes the state of Mississippi’s ability to generate the necessary revenue as businesses have been closed and individuals across the state have been out of work,” said ECCC President Dr. Billy Stewart. “Therefore, we are anticipating a more than $550,000 reduction in state appropriations this year and have prepared a budget to address that reduction in light of the uncertainty of the state’s fiscal condition in fiscal year 2021.”

Stewart said that all options for revenue increases and expenditure reductions were considered in preparing the 2020-2021 budget plan for presentation to the Board of Trustees, while “being mindful of doing everything we could to minimize the impact on the excellent education and services we provide our students and our five-county district.”

Among the strategies for reducing expenditures are freezing all employee salaries at current levels and a 10 percent reduction over the previous fiscal year in most non-salary expense line items in most departmental budgets.

Strategies in the budget plan to increase revenue include a $100 per semester—or 7.5 percent—tuition increase beginning in fall 2020, from $1,330 to $1,430.

There also will be a $10 per credit hour per semester increase—from $120 to $130—for part-time students, or those who enroll in fewer than 15 semester credit hours. The number of credit hours a student can take per semester and only pay the full-time tuition rate is capped at 21. Any semester hours a student takes above 21 are charged at the part-time credit hour rate of $130 per credit hour in addition to the full-time tuition charge.

Dual credit tuition will increase $5, from $100 to $105, for a three-hour course; $5, from $125 to $130, for a four-hour course; and $10, from $150 to $160, for an online course.

In addition, the Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to institute a program fee of $500 per semester for Associated Degree Nursing (ADN) and Practical Nursing (PN) students. 

Room fees will increase $100 per semester, from $750 to $850, for newly updated Neshoba, Scott, and Winston residence halls. Room fees for Barber, Newsome, Stewart (formerly New Women’s), and Todd halls will remain at $850 per semester, and room fees for Jackson and Leake residence halls will remain at $750 per semester.

The college’s Five-Day Meal Plan will increase $25 per semester and the Seven-Day Meal Plan will increase $32 per semester. It’s the first increase in meal plans since 2017-2018.

Despite the tuition and room and board increases, Stewart said he believes ECCC will remain one of the most affordable institutions in the state of Mississippi.

“Our top priority has always been to ensure that our students continue to receive the best community college education in the state, and we pride ourselves in doing just that at one of the most affordable prices,” noted Stewart.

“Increases in the cost of attendance are inevitable for both two-year and four-year colleges and universities during these difficult times. However, our per semester, full-time tuition rate of $1,430 would still be the second lowest in the state of Mississippi if no other institutions implemented tuition increases this year, so we feel good about that.”

Stewart added that if additional mid-year decreases in state and/or local appropriations or in student tuition and fees occur then other cost-cutting measures will need to be considered by the college.

“These are difficult financial times in the state of Mississippi and across our nation, and with that come difficult decisions,” said Stewart. “We persevered as an institution in fiscal year 2018, and I believe East Central Community College emerged as a much stronger institution in many ways, and better prepared to handle the challenges we face going into our new fiscal year on July 1.”

East Central faced a $1.04 million reduction in state appropriations in fiscal year 2018 which began on July 1, 2017, at which time similar strategies for reducing expenditures and increasing revenue were implemented.