RIO GRANDE — With the upcoming Nov. 7 election, the Rio Grande Community College is asking the public to consider a replacement renewal levy, its first in 43 years.
“We were created because there are built in financial challenges with any one of these institutions existing here alone (in southeast Ohio),” said University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College President Dr. Michelle Johnston. “When community colleges were being established in the state, the then governor said we needed a community college in this region of Ohio to serve (Gallia, Jackson, Vinton and Meigs Counties). The thinking was let’s assess what resources we already have and at that time (the previously named Rio Grande College) had been here for many years. It was well-established and serving the community.”
Johnston said the decision from the state was to place the community college on the campus of an existing institution.
“While that co-location has happened in a couple other places in Ohio, they remained distinct. It’s been a public university with public community college,” said Johnston. “You don’t have this public community college placed and co-located with a private university. This (Rio Grande) was the only place that they did that. At first it was a co-location. So we shared some resources and used some of the same buildings. It was about sharing resources.”
As an example, the dual institutions have shared maintenance staff funded by the university which are contracted to the community college said the president.
“We’ve always had important but modest financial support from private sources. We have one of the lowest private tuition bands in the state of Ohio…We know that’s important to make certain students can get an affordable education,” said Johnston.
According to previously collected information, the levy was established in 1974 to support Rio Grande Community College. Over the past 43 years, Rio has used local support to directly impact the quality of its academic programs and to support its commitment to an affordable educational option for citizens in the region. The replacement levy will continue to support Rio Grande Community College. Johnston has claimed other community colleges in Ohio have requested tax levies every five or six years in comparison to the Rio Grande institutions.
The previous levy, which has been collected since the 1976 tax year, generated $115,919.93 in Meigs County in 2016. In comparison, the replacement levy, should all taxes be paid, would generate an estimated $385,928.25 in Meigs County.
Figures from Gallia County indicate that the levy could generate $794,218.31.
Over the region in which the levy would be collected, a total of $2,021,517.05, would be generated according to auditor certification figures.
The replacement renewal levy is a tax that is based on current property evaluations. If the levy passes, a homeowner owning property worth $100,000 will pay an additional $2.39 per month, according to a press release from URG.
Johnston said the previous 1974 funding accounted for around four percent of the community college’s budget whereas the new levy would bring in less than 10 percent of the community college’s budget. The president said the institution intends to use the funding to maintain and improve current classes as well as adding new programs. An agriculture program has been one such initiative discussed among officials.
Currently, the levy is based on property values at the time it was approved by voters, meaning that the value is assessed on what the properties were worth in the 1970s rather than 2017.
According to the dual university and college’s figures, one out of sixteen individuals in its four counties of service are either Rio Grande alumni or some form or donor. From those same four counties, roughly 75 percent of the students are from them. Tuition has reportedly increased $39 per class over the last six years.
Community college tuition rate for residents of Gallia, Jackson, Meigs or Vinton Counties are charged $116.16 per credit hour. An institutional fee of $20 per credit hour is added as well as a comprehensive fee of $300 once per semester. Residents of Ohio but outside the four county district are charged $116.16 per credit hour with a $30 out of district surcharge per credit hour. An institutional fee of $20 is also added per credit hour and a comprehensive fee once per semester is charged at $315. Private university charges at less than 12 hours per credit hour are $1,065. Tuition charged between 12 and 18 credit hours is $12,765 and tuition charged per additional credit hour over 19 credit hours taken is $1,065. Tuition charges of adult degree completion per credit hour also adds $535 while a BSN per credit hour adds $505 per credit hour.
Standard room and board of a residence hall per semester is $5,315.
Johnston said both institutions have been in discussion with major jobs creators in the four county district in hopes of gearing coursework to area business needs. The institutions have also taken part in the College Credit Plus program, which allows high school students to attend college classes and earn both credits in high school and college coursework. Dual institution officials have stated students have walked out of high school with associate’s degrees in some cases.
Johnston has said keeping both institutions running and improving was directly connected to the economic success of the four county district.
The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College has reportedly been in discussions with the Bob Evans Restaurant division about potentially acquiring the farm’s land bordering the dual institutions’ property. Johnston stressed the levy was not to be used to purchase the land but instead to improve on the university and college’s current programs and added education initiatives.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342. Sarah Hawley contributed to this story.