Pierce College, like other public schools throughout Washington, is feeling a budget pinch. There is certainly no exception in the Health and Education Center.
The HEC is a building on the Puyallup campus where health and physical education classes are held. It also serves as a gym where faculty and students can exercise. Plans for the center were secured in 2002, and now, the building serves the Puyallup campus five days a week.
Securing the money for the center was not easy. Currently, $4.21 million is owed on the building’s design and construction. The students are paying for it. In addition to standard tuition rates, each Puyallup student is charged a fee of $4.25 for each credit they take on campus in order to help repay the HEC’s debt.
According to Joann Wiszmann, vice president of administrative services, this fee was put in place with an original pay-off date of 2027. However, two changes occurred since the fee was originally put in place.
First, a new law was passed requiring Running Start students, previously exempt from the HEC fees, to pay college fees that are mandated for other students.
Then, according to Wiszmann, “enrollment increased significantly as a result of the economic downturn.”
“The Running Start change was not anticipated and will allow the college to pay off the debt approximately two years sooner than anticipated,” she said, adding, “If enrollment were to stay at this level, the college could pay off the debt even sooner.”
However, Wiszmann does not think that will be the case: “History tells us that enrollment closely follows unemployment rates.” She estimates that the temporary boost, when combined with Running Start student fees, will push the pay-off date forward to 2024.
Currently, the HEC’s operating expenses are covered first by the $15 fee paid by those who use the center, and second by the college’s operating budget, the latter of which allots $69,000 a year in operating money.
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