ATHENS — Athens State University President Robert Glenn wants to increase tuition at his two-year school, and he’s pitching the need for more revenue to his new trustees.
As a two-day orientation retreat began Thursday, Glenn said university revenues were up more than $1 million at the end of fiscal 2012, but a tuition increase is needed.
“We run a very lean operation here,” Glenn said. “And we’re going to need an increase if we’re going to maintain the value of this institution.”
Glenn said he did not know how much the tuition increase request would be, or when he will make a recommendation to trustees. He said he expects the increase will be for the 2013-14 school year.
The board of trustees today will hold its second meeting since the group was formed in October. The board has taken governance of the university from the state Board of Education and two-year Alabama Postsecondary Department.
Athens State increased tuition two years ago to $157 per semester hour, but Glenn said tuition remains lower than at other Alabama universities.
Glenn said a decade ago, annual tuition costs started at about $3,000 (12 hours per semester for two semesters) for every state university. He said while the other schools increased to $8,000 or $9,000 a year, Athens’ tuition remains less than $4,000 a year.
Trustee Garth Lovvorn, a retired banker, said he understands why Glenn is concerned.
“One thing I learned as a banker is overhead is always going up, whether it’s utilities, rent or — the No. 1 expense — payroll and salaries,” Lovvorn said. “People work here and make a living to feed their families.”
Trustee Taze Shepard, a Huntsville attorney and a former state Board of Education member, said he wants to make sure all necessary expense cuts are made before considering a tuition increase.
“A tuition increase really should be a last resort,” Shepard said. “Typically at this university, students are probably working, taking care of children and taking classes in their spare time. We need to keep tuition as inexpensive as possible.”
Glenn agreed, saying he doesn’t want an increase that would put Athens State’s tuition equal with the other universities.
“A jump from $157 a credit hour to $250 a credit hour would be disastrous for students,” Glenn said.
Some trustees, such as Lovvorn and chairwoman pro tem Sandra Sims-DeGraffenfied, graduated from Athens State. Shepard, Clint Shelton and state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, did not.
They emphasized that, as the only junior- and senior-level college in the state, Athens State needs better marketing.
“A four-year institution isn’t a good fit for everyone,” said Sims-DeGraffenried, who earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from ASU.
“We need to come together and do what we can to advance this university’s finances, education and visibility in the community,” she said.
Shepard said he wants the university to make sure it offers current academic programs tailored to north Alabama’s work needs. He said logistics and program management are needs at Redstone Arsenal for military and civilian contractors. He also wants the university to offer more online and adult education classes.
Sims-DeGraffenried and Lovvorn said they are interested in bringing back graduate courses, possibly in education and religion. The University of North Alabama will soon offer a master’s in business administration on the Athens State campus.
Sims-DeGraffenried said she is also intrigued by Glenn’s idea of turning the Carter Physical Education Center, or the site where it stands, into a civic center.
Glenn said he has suggested a partnership with the city of Athens and the Limestone County Commission on the civic center project.
“We wouldn’t be able to fund this project ourselves,” Glenn said.
Lovvorn said he would like to see sports return to campus. “I don’t care whether it’s golf, ping pong or Tiddly Winks,” he said. “We need something that will involve the city of Athens and give people a tie into the university.”