Tuition hikes, class cuts, parking lots, and smokers huts

At a Town Hall Meeting between administrators and students, questions regarding parking, smoking, tuition increases, cutting classes and tutoring were answered by college President Gerald Pumphrey and his staff. This was a time where students could come and ask questions about anything they wished to know about the South Puget Sound Community College.

ASB President Derek Fletcher acted as chair and moved the meeting right along. His cabinet was also there to show support and asked the majority of the questions.

The parking situation was addressed first.

According to Pumphrey, the best solution for the long term is to build out in the Hawk’s Prairie campus because many students drive past the area just to get to the main campus.

Surface parking expansion on the main campus is not an option for the college, according to Pumphrey.

The City of Tumwater required a large sum of money to develop SPSCC parking to their standards. Pumphrey said. It would cost $3 million for 80-100 parking spots.

“We just cant finance that,” said Pumphrey.

However, he went on to say, “we are looking at building a possible parking deck,” though that option is in its infancy.

Nevertheless, the goal is to build at the Hawks Prairie Campus where financial restrictions are less arduous, in the eyes of the administration. Parking expansion there will cost about $20,000-$30,000 per parking space.

Pumphrey said the college is more than willing to continue with the short-term solution and work with Intercity Transit. The Thurston County bus service has been helpful to the college with the parking situation, easing up demand by students who can use public transit.

According to Pumphrey, the last two years were particularly bad, but more people are taking the bus now than ever.

Fletcher brought up the issue of smoking on behalf of students who could not attend the town hall.

Pumphrey responded that the issues has been controversial and, in light of recent issues, has been “put on the back burner.”

There are two possible solutions the administration has considered. The first is to ban smoking altogether, making SPSCC a smoke-free campus.

The second option is to create designated smoking tents around the campus. This option, however, carries with it costs to the college that, in light of the recent budget situation, is not preferred by the administration.

One student asked Pumphrey and his staff whether or not a science lab would be added, to be used in a similar fashion to already existing math and writing centers.

Pumphrey said that it would be “very difficult” to have a tutor who can cover all the levels and types of sciences.

For now, students will have to either seek help from professors or peers as well as the Smart Thinking program online that is offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said administrators.

Pumphrey decided to bring up the issue of tuition increases in the future, saying he was “surprised” the issue had not yet been raised.

Pumphrey said tuition will be increasing by 10% next year.

“If there is a higher tuition increase, we don’t as get steep of a base budget cut which means we can offer more classes,” said Pumphrey. “If there is a lower tuition increase, then our budget cut is stepper, then we have to offer fewer classes.”

This decision weighed heavily on administrators on the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, which decides on tuition increases as allowed by state government.

“On one hand, tuition [can get] so expensive students cant afford to pay it,” said Pumphrey. “On the other hand, if it doesn’t go up a certain amount we don’t have the money to offer the classes that people came here for to begin with”.

Pumphrey likened this decision to a traveler at a gas station: if gas costs too much, the traveler can’t afford to fill the tank. If gas is rationed, the traveler doesn’t have enough to reach his or her destination.

The administration’s recommendation is that students apply for scholarships, as there are many which go untouched each quarter. Meanwhile, they are working with legislators to minimize future cuts.