The Maricopa County Community College District is proposing both an increase on property taxes and tuition for the 2014-15 budget.
The proposal involves a 2 percent property tax levy as well as an increase in college tuition from $81 to $86 per credit hour for resident students.
Speculation about the purpose of these increases was sparked after a data breach incident within the colleges that involved personal and secure information of students and employees being made available.
“If you’ve ever had any kind of relationship with the Maricopa colleges you would have had to provide information that was all made available during this incident,” said Tom Gariepy, director of Marketing and Communications for the district.
Letters were sent out to inform the approximated 2.5 million people possibly affected by the incident, and according to Gariepy, this act in itself cost the district a significant amount of money.
“Sending out letters, maintaining a call center on a toll free number, and providing credit monitoring services could have cost up to a maximum of $7 million,” Gariepy said.
Edward Welsh, a business professor at MCC and also a cyber attorney-at-law, said he has his students working on a project inspired by the data breaches in the district as well as in major companies like Target that will teach them about business law and personal identity issues.
“Things like data breaches aren’t a matter of if, they’re a matter of when,” Welsh said. “Do what you can so you are not a victim.”
According to Gariepy, the money earned from the proposed tax and tuition increase, though unrelated to the data breach, would go toward improving the district’s IT department which would include server upgrades as well as employee training and cyber security programs.
MCCD is mainly funded in three ways; property tax, tuition, and legislative funds.
Though originally intended to provide a fairly equal source of funding from each method, the state’s share of that funding has dropped significantly, from 8 percent to only 1 percent.
Lucas Bodine, president of the Associated Students of Mesa Community College, said he understands the need for the increases but is concerned for its effects on the colleges.
“It seems like the way our colleges are funded is sort of a three-legged stool, however, that stool is clearly unbalanced,” Bodine said. “The revenue would go towards funding good things but is it the best answer to the problem? If tuition keeps increasing and students are expected to pay more for their education, those students who can’t afford it may be denied opportunities. Community colleges need to be accessible to everyone.”
Though the district seems to be limited in its options for funding these improvements, they are nevertheless concerned about the repercussions of a tuition increase.
“No one wants to consider the prospect of raising tuition–$1 per credit hour is enough, never mind $5,” Gariepy said. “Our governing board has expressed great concern over raising tuition and if they decide to do it, it will be very reluctantly. However we are focused on improving the IT department and moving forward as a community.”
The decision regarding the proposed tuition increase will be addressed at the governing board meeting in April and the property tax levy will be considered in May.