Northern Virginia Community College may install a surcharge of $3 per class hour next semester to offset cuts in services and staff made by the college after it was told it would get $5 million less from the state.

The fee was proposed by a group of students after Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announced in August that he would cut 5 percent from the state education budget because of a $1.4 billion shortfall in state revenue. Student leaders asked for the added fee when they realized that certain services and classes on the school's campuses were being deleted.

The $67 million budget for NOVA, as the Northern Virginia system is commonly known, accounts for more than one-third of all spending in the state's 23-school system. The five NOVA campuses admit more than one-fourth of all students in the Virginia Community College System.

Milton Hodges, student chairman of United Student Leaders for Quality Education, the student committee that initiated the surcharge proposal, said registration lines were longer and classes are larger this semester. "Because the classes are bigger, the students are receiving less individualized instruction, and that results in a poor education," said Hodges, who attends the Alexandria campus.

Currently, one credit hour costs $28.60. Most courses are three credit hours. The $3 surcharge, which if approved by Wilder would go into effect in the spring semester, would raise the cost to $31.60 per credit hour. According to NOVA President Richard J. Ernst, the increase would bring in about $600,000 in revenue for the school.

"The students are certainly taking a positive approach {to the situation}," he said. "They realize there is a budgetary problem and they want to help."

Ernst said the school has had to cut about $5 million from its budget and has had to keep some positions vacant, lay off some employees and teachers, and reduce expenditures for libraries and grounds maintenance. The college also has closed its dental lab program and consolidated the auto body repair program.

"But our emphasis is to keep the quality intact in the classrooms," he said.

Last week, a group of NOVA students presented a petition signed by 2,000 students to Virginia Secretary of Education James W. Dyke Jr. The group hopes that Dyke will convey their concerns about the cuts to Wilder and that the governor will see the proposal as a viable option.

"A temporary surcharge will not mend the budget cuts of the past," Hodges said. "But if it goes into effect next semester, the {money} raised would alleviate the additional $800,000 scheduled to be cut in the spring."

There is no guarantee that the governor will accept the proposal, which he is expected to review on Sept. 14, according to Ernst. Wilder has announced several times that he is against raising tuition at state universities and colleges.

"I can't predict what will happen," said Nellie Quander, a member of the State Board of Community Colleges, which normally has authority over budgetary matters at the state's two-year schools. "There are a lot of aspects involved in this specific situation." For instance, Quander said, students in Northern Virginia might be more able to afford the increase in tuition than students in less affluent regions.

Ernst said he understood that the board conducted an informal telephone conference last week, voting in support of the surcharge.

If the surcharge does go into effect, it appears that it already has won some student support.

"It would be worth it," said Ron Hoobler, a business major at the Alexandria campus. "It's ridiculous how much they've cut classes. There aren't as many scheduling options now."

"I would be willing to pay six extra dollars if it meant keeping some classes and bringing back others," said Adrian Eckert, a history major. "They have good teachers here."