South Plains College (SPC) may have to implement increases so the school can pay for employee health insurance.
Governor Rick Perry signed a nearly $152 billion biennium budget which included $154 million in state funding cuts for health insurance coverage at all of the state's 50 community colleges. But by state law, these community colleges are required to provide health insurance to their employees.
The governor's veto came down on Friday and since then SPC has come up with two possibilities. One, ask for a tax increase. Two, raise student tuition and fees and that's not sitting well with some students.
SPC Student Tammy Davis said, "It worries me because that would mean that I might have to pay more money and SPC is a school that I go to because it's cheaper than Tech."
Another student, Steven R. Miller said, "I think it's unfortunate that he would veto this bill. I personally am attending SPC because it's inexpensive and it's transferable to where I'm going."
Both students are Texas Tech students who take summer classes at SPC to save money.
Miller added, "I would say that I save about 50% over what I pay at Tech."
That student savings could disappear come 2009 when the governor's cuts go into effect.
SPC President Dr. Kelvin Sharp said, "$3.3 million is what our appropriations is and the spread sheet shows that in '08 we would get $3.3 million and in '09 we would get zero."
You see, a community college gets its income from three places:
Dr. Sharp said, "If one source reduces its contribution, it puts pressure on the other two."
That pressure may come in the form of taxpayer increases or higher student tuition and fees.
Steven Miller said, "If prices go up, why would I take classes here? Why would I, why should I? I think it would damage the school."
Dr. Sharp said, "You start putting more burden on the students, then the question is do they have to work more to work their way through college? And I think that's unfortunate for the kinds of students we have here at South Plains College."
But no matter the shortfall in state funds, SPC is required by state law to provide an employee insurance plan.
Dr. Sharp added, "We will continue to offer that coverage, it's just that we will have to find other funding sources because we won't have the state dollars to apply to that category in our budget."
Dr. Sharp says the school is still looking at the best way to pay for employee health insurance. No decision has been made yet but again, employees are not losing their health insurance altogether.
The governor's office claims the reason for the veto is because community colleges often overestimate their health insurance costs. But the SPC president thinks it was merely an oversight by the governor.
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