Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Alamo Colleges will get a new chancellor and a new president of Palo Alto College this fall as students at the community college district prepare to get higher tuition bills.
At a budget workshop in mid-July, trustees approved a tuition increase, and on Tuesday night, Alamo Colleges announced Robert Garza as the new president of Palo Alto College, to replace Mike Flores, who will take over as chancellor in October.
On July 14, trustees voted to raise the semester credit hour rate by $13 as of January. For a student taking 24 credit hours a year, with six additional free hours in the summer provided through an Alamo Colleges program, the net cost of the increase comes out to $312 annually.
In-district students, which comprise 90 percent of Alamo College's student body, currently pay $86 per semester credit hour. Out-of-district students pay $202.
The tuition hike helps to mitigate a $6.9 million budget deficit brought on by enrollment growth, reduced state funding, and additional programs that increased the district's expenses. Last fall, Alamo Colleges served 60,000 students in the San Antonio area.
"We actually lose money when we grow," said Diane Snyder, the Alamo Colleges vice chancellor for finance and administration. "That's why we had a fund balance transfer last fall, because our tuition did not produce enough money to pay for the instructors and everything in the classroom. ... We are unable to repeat that fund balance transfer because of where our fund balance is."
Last fall, Alamo Colleges took money from its fund balance, which is similar to a savings account.
In the last seven years, Alamo Colleges has increased its tuition fees twice, raising it by roughly 8 percent. In comparison, Snyder said, 44 of the 50 Texas colleges raised tuition by 20 percent or more from Fall 2011 to Fall 2017, with an average increase of 35 percent.
Trustee Yvonne Katz, the board's outgoing president, noted that reduced state funding had a big impact on the San Antonio community college's budget. Since 2013, the state has contributed $17.28 less funding per semester credit hour, Snyder said.
"This is what is killing us," Katz said, noting that trustees will need to advocate on behalf of the community college district during the upcoming state legislative session.
Snyder told the board of trustees that unless tuition was raised, Alamo Colleges would face capping enrollment at 2017 levels, eliminating some support services and student success initiatives, and redirecting funds from tax revenues, which might limit the ability of ACCD to open buildings included in the capital improvement plan.
"All of the options harm our students – less access, less support services, or [they] limit our ability to meet the [capital improvement project] commitment to serve our growing population," Snyder said.
Trustees unanimously approved the tuition increase, after lamenting the financial circumstances that spurred the move. Snyder called the increase a "catch-up adjustment" that would allow the community college district to break even on services and provide for future student growth.
On Tuesday, Alamo Colleges made another major announcement: Robert Garza will succeed Mike Flores as the president of Palo Alto College in September. Flores will take over as chancellor of the district on Oct. 1, succeeding Bruce Leslie.
Garza will become the seventh president of PAC, having previously served as president of Mountain View College, which is part of the Dallas County Community College District. His new role will bring him back to San Antonio, where from 1999 to 2015 he served as PAC's vice president of student success, dean of student success, and dean of community development and partnerships.
"Bringing an individual like Dr. Garza, with more than 15 years of experience in South San Antonio, is an important factor in understanding the community we serve," Flores said in a statement.