San Juan College recently announced the first general fee increase in eight years. The revenue generated, an estimated $198,000, is designated to help fund the planned Student Health Center.
“We go about doing any increases on tuition and fees every other year, so it's based off several metrics – one of them being the Consumer Price Index,” said Boomer W. Appleman, vice president of student services.
He said that last year a tuition review was done, so this year they reviewed the general fee.
Edward DesPlas, San Juan College executive vice president, touted the college’s low cost.
“San Juan College remains one of the most affordable colleges in the nation, with our resident tuition and fees being one-half the national average for public two-year colleges,” DesPlas said.
“And we don't have a long list of fees like a lot of colleges, such as a technology fee, library fee, a parking fee – all those things. We bundle all of ours up into one general fee that makes it clear for the students,” Appleman said.
The general fee will adjust to $86.50 for students enrolled in four credit hours or less, an increase of $9 per semester. Those enrolled in four credit hours or more will see an increase of $20 per semester, bringing the new general fee to $205.
The nonresident general fee will increase to $152.50 for students enrolled in four credit hours or less, an increase of $15 per semester. Nonresident students enrolled in four credit hours or more will see a $33.50 increase, bringing the total general fee to $338.50 per semester.
The college has been working toward building a student health center for some time, so the fee adjustment was designated as a funding component.
“Knowing that we had not increased our general fee in at least eight years, we're very conscientious about our community and where their money goes and how we spend it,” Appleman said. “We want to be good stewards.”
He said, “We've been very tight on increasing anything for the last eight years, but with the health center … they faced some special expenses that generally colleges don’t have.”
“Knowing we need to cover some of that expense is why that conversation started over a year ago,” Appleman said.
The fee increase is not expected to have a major effect on enrollment.
“When we looked at the increase of the fee, that came up to a certain percentage … but when you apply it to a resident rate, it’s a 2% increase overall,” Appleman said.
A student taking 15 credit hours, who is now paying $1,025, would only see a $20 increase. Appleman said, “Looking at that, that's pretty good.”
Appleman said they have been aware of the need for a student health center for some time. He said the college recognized the need for accessible student health care because of the downtime students face when they have to drive to or sit and wait at a general primary care service.
When students miss classes they can easily fall behind.
“If the body's healthy, the mind can be healthy and they don't miss classes,” Appleman said.
“We were able to work with both the federal and state governments to secure some financing to help with that,” he said. The college received $1.1 million from federal delegation and another $1.1 million from the state.
Chris Harrelson, physical plant facilities director, said their goal is to begin the student health center project in late July, finish a year later and open for students in fall 2024.
The Student Health Center will be built in front of and to the east of the Health and Human Performance Center. Student housing is nearby, as are the utilities, which will lower construction costs, Harrelson said.
Appleman said that anytime the college has a major piece of college administration and construction, they take the issue to the Associated Students of San Juan College.
The Associated Students, who represent the student body, unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the fee increase.
Appleman said that even though breaking ground is a few months away and completion of the facility is roughly 15 months away, they are not delaying providing health services to students.
“We have hired a director of our health center who's a nurse practitioner, and we are hiring the rest of the staff. We've identified an open space on our campus for a temporary health center until the formal and permanent location is ready,” he said.
A stand-alone building on campus, which had previously been used as a meeting space, was converted for use as a temporary health center. The facility will house medical and behavioral professionals until the permanent facility is completed.