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Early College student fees questioned

JACKSON – In January, the Northampton Board of Commissioners received a letter of request from Halifax Community College (HCC). County Manager Kimberly Turner brought that letter before the Board at their regular meeting here Monday.

According to the letter, HCC is requesting a $63 administrative fee per Northampton County Early College student per semester. This is to keep up with traditional students who pay technology fees, parking/security fees, and student activity fees each semester.

The request from HCC explains “the early college students receive the same benefits as other traditional students do on our campus through the use of campus technology, parking lot use, security protection, and in their involvement in Student Government Activities.”

With 115 students from Northampton County currently in the Early College program, the college is asking the Board of Commissioners for a total of $7,245 for the Spring 2018 semester.

The letter states HCC had previously requested the money from the school system, but were told it was not in their available budget for this fiscal year.

After Turner presented the letter, Commissioner Charles Tyner replied that he did not understand why they were suddenly being charged a fee they did not have previously, and he was against having to pay it.

Turner explained that she had spoken with the leaders at HCC, and these fees were a way to close their funding deficit gap. She also stated that the fee would continue on for future semesters as well.

Chairman Robert Carter invited Northampton School Superintendent Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter to speak to explain her position on the matter.

Dr. Smith-Woofter explained that the parking portion of the requested fee has already been covered by some Early College students. Though not all students use their own transportation to get to campus, those that do have already paid the parking fee.

In regards to the student activity fee, the superintendent replied, “our students participate in extracurricular activities with their home school district. The majority of them do not have time to participate in extracurricular activities on campus because they’re riding the bus back to the home site.”

The Early College students currently do not have a full-time space on the HCC campus, though plans to construct a building to house several Early College programs is underway.

If the activity fee was a hardship on the college, the superintendent continued, then she would rather the Early College students not participate in extracurriculars at the college itself. Those that choose to do so would have to cover the individual fee personally.

Dr. Smith-Woofter admitted she wasn’t sure what the technology fee included, so she would need further discussion with the administration at the college on that particular part of the request.

Commissioner Fannie Greene, a recently appointed member of the HCC Board of Trustees, recommended that they discuss the issue further with the president of the college before the commissioners voted to make any decision on the fee.

“Based on what the superintendent said, the kids are not using all these fees,” Greene said. “So we shouldn’t be charged these fees if they’re not using these fees.”

Greene also pointed out, however, that a large amount of county students attend the community college, and that they should continue their support of the local college every year.

The Board voted unanimously to table the discussion until after they had met with the college president, Dr. Michael Elam, for more information.