GC Holds the Line on Tuition; Expands Academic Options

As college tuition costs increase across the state and around the country Garrett College (GC) has managed to put the brakes on expenses and hold the line. There will be no tuition increases at GC for the Fall semester. Students in Garrett County can spend less by attending GC than any of the other colleges in the area, according to cost comparisons currently available.

“Garrett College students enrolled full-time over a period of two years can save between $5,000 and $18,000 dollars in tuition expense when compared with other colleges located within the region,” noted Ann Wellham, Dean of Marketing and Enrollment Management. 

Garrett College President Dr. Richard MacLennan pointed out that while maintaining the status quo on tuition, the GC administration has diligently hammered out a plan that will allow the expansion of educational programs in line with the college mission statement: “We are committed to the ongoing development of engaging, innovative, and sustainable curricula, programs, and initiatives that are responsive to a changing world,” he said.

Dr. MacLennan also commented on the successful planning process that the administration undertook. “The Fiscal Year 2014 Budget was developed simultaneously with the new Strategic Plan from FY 2014 to FY 2016. Taking the broad approach we were able to look at the areas which we want to expand in the coming years to enhance the quality of the Garrett College education experience and do so from the lean budgetary restrictions of the current economy,” he said.

Among the items on the agenda for GC under the new plan is the completion of the Center for Teaching and Learning to support faculty development, and the increase of quality distance and mixed mode courses. With the growth in the demand for online and hybrid learning, GC faculty will be better prepared to deliver virtual classes through specific trainings through this center.

Also on the boards for funding is the consolidation and continued staffing support for the Advising and Academic Success Center (AASC) to meet the student’s needs. Initiating services in 2012, the AASC offers the individualized attention that allows many students to overcome barriers to academic success.

The new plan includes full funding for a Computer Science faculty position. This increase will permit GC to expand offerings in the fields of technology education to better prepare students to meet industry employment demands.

Additionally, the new budget accounts for equipment improvements to the Natural Resource and Wildlife program in order to maintain the standard of quality needed to support instruction.

Josephine Gilman, Garrett College Dean of Administration, underscored the importance and the challenge of incorporating institutional goals, the strategic plan, the academic plan, and a campus facilities master plan in this integrated planning process of what could be achieved using available funding.

To arrive at the win-win situation of holding down tuition rates and expanding expenditures required to provide a top notch academic experience, GC administrators had to navigate some challenging waters while implementing best practices of budgeting.

Gilman explained some of the methods employed in this process. “We started with a participative process of zero-based budgeting and prioritization of resources. The goal was a balanced budget. We needed to identify the critical issues to be addressed during the Strategic Plan period, and then identify the resource allocation that would be tied to each strategic plan goal,” she said.

The budget committee worked for months exploring and selecting cost containment measures that would curtail expenses without negatively impacting the quality of service provided. They found they could achieve modest reductions in Operation and Maintenance of the facilities through improved energy management.

Additional savings were identified in the GC facilities preventive maintenance plan of repairs and improvements. Through vigilant oversight of the buildings and their infrastructure, expenditures have been and will continue to be kept in check.

“We are very fortunate in Garrett County to have such strong support from our County Commissioners. While other community colleges are experiencing a decrease in local funding, our Board of Commissioners continues a strong commitment to education to improve the quality of life for the people of this community,” Gilman said.

More information on Garrett College is available at www.garrettcollege.edu