LAND O' LAKES - A Pasco-Hernando Community College plan to charge the Pasco County school district an administrative fee for students who take dual-enrollment classes on high school campuses is causing a dustup between the college and the district.
School Superintendent Kurt Browning leaves no doubt the college's move has him peeved.
"I'm going to try to be polite when I talk about this because this one rankled me," Browning told the school board this week.
A PHCC vice president, though, defended the fee as necessary to cover the college's costs for administering the courses.
The latest dual-enrollment twist comes as the school district for the first time is taking on the expense of paying tuition for students who take dual enrollment classes on the college's campuses. At PHCC the reduced rate dual-enrollment tuition is $73.20 per credit hour. For a typical three-credit-hour course, that comes to $219.60 per student.
Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college courses at no cost to the student. In the past, state law called for community colleges to waive the tuition, but as more students took advantage of dual enrollment, the colleges complained that it was becoming too costly to continue to do that.
The colleges turned to the state Legislature for relief and in the recent legislative session lawmakers shifted responsibility for covering tuition to school districts.
Browning said he understands that the law was changed and the district now has the obligation to pay the tuition. The district budgeted about $490,000 for the coming school year to cover the expense.
"I get that," Browning said. "That's not a problem."
He does object, though, to the administrative fee and to an additional plan by the college to charge for summer dual-enrollment classes. Browning said school districts received a document from the state Department of Education that said they don't have to pay for summer tuition, but the college disagrees.
"We are going to have lawyers dealing with lawyers on that," Browning said.
No tuition is charged when a dual-enrollment student takes the class on a high school campus. But in an addendum to its dual-enrollment agreement with the district, the college proposes charging the district $37.73 per student per semester for administrative costs in those cases.
Browning said he finds it especially irksome that the college would charge a fee even in cases where the classes are taught by high school teachers.
"It's ridiculous," Browning said. "I want to know what cost the college is incurring by having our facilities being used and our teachers being used. I will tell you I am not happy about it."
Burt Harres, vice president of instruction for PHCC, said the college does have expenses in such areas as student advising, admissions records and transcripts.
"We had our comptroller look at last year's number of students," Harres said. "We looked at the types of services we provide and came up with a figure."
The college then split that dollar amount so that if a student took a class in the fall, but not in the spring, the school district wouldn't pay a full year's fee, Harres said.
As for the summer tuition, Harres said the legislation calls for school districts to pay tuition from the per-student funding they receive from the state.
"I think the bone of contention is they are looking at (the funding) being only for nine months," Harres said. "But the fact of the matter is, they are being allocated the money for those students for that period of time and we are providing a service."
He called it an honest disagreement and said the college is willing to discuss the issue with the school district to see whether it can be resolved.
Regardless, Harres said students won't be affected. The college will continue to register them for dual-enrollment classes even as PHCC and the school district work out their differences.
"It's between the college and the school district to get this part resolved," Harres said. "We certainly would not want to inconvenience students."