Alabama — After two straight years of raising the cost of diploma, Alabama A&M University is set to raise tuition by 5 percent more.
The business and finance committee of the school’s board of trustees approved On Friday the 2013 fiscal budget, including the tuition increase.
“We did not want to increase, either,” Alabama A&M President Andrew Hugine told the trustees, who were reluctant to approve the increase. “But you’ll notice the increase is very, very small.”
Trustees asked if there wasn’t 5 percent elsewhere in the budget that could be cut to avoid a tuition increase.
“Can I find 5 percent in the operations that I don’t have to put this burden on students?” Norman Hill, chair of the business and finance committee, said the university administration should ask themselves.
The answer was a collective “no.”
It’s the third straight year Alabama A&M has raised tuition. However, the 5 percent spike is the smallest increase. In 2010, tuition jumped 23 percent. It rose 9 percent last year.
Hugine said the school has cut personnel extensively to reduce costs and was not in a position to make further cuts.
“We have reduced and reduced and reduced to the point right now where that, in physical education, they don’t have things to work with, like baseballs or footballs, because we have reduced so much in terms of operating expenses,” Hugine said.
The full board, which attended the finance committee meeting and heard the presentation, will make a final vote on the budget — including the tuition increase — at the June 22 meeting.
Finance director Ralph Johnson, in outlining the budget in committee meetings, pointed to several factors that contributed to the tuition increase. Alabama A&M’s state appropriations were cut 4 percent by the Legislature, Johnson said. Also, meetings with departments across campus put spending under scrutiny.
The tuition increase will bring an additional $1.6 million to the school, based on an enrollment of 5,000 students, Johnson said.
Hugine said all areas were in need.
“We have science classes that are lacking in the equipment they need. The question is, ‘How much can you continue to reduce and still offer a product at the university?’”
Hugine went on to say the 5 percent tuition increase was the “minimum we could do in order to be sure we continue to offer a quality program for the students at Alabama A&M University.”
Overall, Alabama A&M’s operating budget for 2013 rose 1.3 percent to $106.4 million. The 2012 budget is $105 million.
In other business, the board during a special-called meeting authorized the administration to take out a $3 million line of credit. It’s intended to help fill gaps between the school’s financial obligations and the receipt of state funds.
The trustees also heard a presentation of an audit of the school’s 2011 financial records. Alabama A&M received a clean audit from the firm of Banks, Finley, White & Co. The audit classified the school as a “low-risk auditee” that places Alabama A&M in a more competitive position to receive funding, auditors said.
“The university is trending in the right direction,” said Odysseus Lanier, president pro tem of the trustee board. “The cash balance is up and the expenses are going down.”