Ground broken for GC South Campus addition

VAN ALSTYNE — Grayson County College Monday broke ground on the Technology Center at its South Grayson Campus in Van Alstyne and signed an agreement to expand its partnership with Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Okla.

After the ceremony, the GC Board of Trustees agreed to increase tuition for students in fall of 2013.

“It’s a great day in Grayson County and it’s a great day in Van Alstyne, we are very excited to be here,” said GC President Jeremy McMillen about the ground breaking ceremony.

“We are moving dirt as you can see out the window. We have a vision for moving forward and we are acting on that,” he said. That plan, he explained, includes partnerships with the city of Van Alstyne, Grayson County, the state, the federal government and others, including Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

The 18,000-square-foot building that will house four new programs for students from the southern area of the county is expected to be open by fall 2014.

Construction of the Technical Center has been made possible by a $2 million grant for the Economic Development Administration and $2 million in matching funds from GC. The EDA money was originally slated to be used to build a GC campus in Fannin County, but voters there rejected that idea.

GC worked with EDA to use the money to expand technical courses offered at Van Alstyne. Courses to be offered from the new building include programs to train people to become welders, electricians, and medical laboratory technicians. Through an agreement with Southeastern, the building will also house classes in Occupational Safety and Health training. Under that program, Southeastern students will take the first two years of their Occupational Safety and Health classes at Grayson’s South campus and the final two years on the Durant campus.

“We are indeed privileged to join the Grayson family today for this very special event,” said SOSU President Larry Minks.

“I can assure that Southeastern is extremely proud with Grayson College to be part of this project that is truly a win/win for all concerned, especially for the benefit of our students,” Minks said.

He said the collaboration between the two schools began in 2005 when SOSU started offering its elementary education degree program to students at GC.

“And today is a special day in terms of allowing us to build on that and expanding our higher education teaching center offerings here on the South campus,” Minks added.

McMillen said students should be able to graduate from that program and go out into the market place to find well-paying jobs.

Opened in May 2004, the Grayson College South campus offers students academic transfer course and dual credit offerings for high school students. GC’s licensed vocational nursing program is also housed there.

The new agreement is pending final approval from the higher education governing boards in Oklahoma and the Higher Learning Commission.

In a meeting after the groundbreaking, GC’s Board of Trustees agreed to increase the cost of the attending the college by $4 a semester hour for in-district and non-resident students, and $7 for out-of-district students. Along with that, McMillen said, the college would decrease the college’s tax rate by .25 percent.

McMillen told the Board the move, one of three he proposed, is needed to meet shortfalls from state funding that amount to $416,429. He said even with the increase in tuition, the college will still have to come up with an additional $117,289 to meet its projected budget.

The first of the two proposals rejected by the Board would have left the cost for attending GC at its current rate and decreased the tax rate by the .25 percent. It would have required the college to cut $512,069 from its budget in 2013-2014.

The second proposal would have left things as they are until the college finds out the amount of the state’s final cuts for community colleges. Then the Board would have considered an increase in tuition and fees for the Spring 2014 term.

McMillen told the Board members they did not have to make a decision Monday night. He said, to set the tuition for Spring 2014, in time for registration, they would need to meet again in March.

Long serving board member Ruby Jo Williams said she saw no need to wait until spring 2014 to implement the increase if the college would need it anyway. She said making the change in the fall will help students know what to plan for as they go forward.

New Board member Ronnie Cole said he ran on a promise that the college would not increase taxes or costs. However, he said, McMillen informed Board members that 39 out of the 50 community colleges in Texas charge more for tuition than Grayson.

Former GC biology instructor and new board member Jackie Butler asked how much the increase would cost a student taking 12 hours. She was told it would be around $48 for an in-district student.

“That is less than a text book,” Butler said, and then noted that is also less than 10 lattes.

“Or half of a tank of gas it would cost students to go someplace else,” McMillen said.

“It seems to me almost like a no-brainer,” Butler said, explaining that the college’s other choices to make up the shortfall are to cut the money spent on student education.

Board members said by increasing tuition rather than taxes, the college could show it is being supported by the people using its services most.

Williams said the people of the community elected the Board members to make the tough decisions, including the ones on what to charge for classes.

In the end, Williams made a motion that the college increase tuition beginning in the fall of 2013 and Butler seconded the motion. Only Cole voted against the motion.