GARDNER -- Mount Wachusett Community College's campus Board of Trustees have authorized campus police to carry firearms starting in 2016, following a vote at Thursday's meeting.

In March, President Daniel Asquino said he was reversing his opposition to arming campus police because of concerns over recent mass shootings. His suggestion received overwhelming approval from the Student Senate, and now has the approval of MWCC trustees.

The motion authorized campus police to begin carrying firearms on Jan. 1, 2016, but Asquino said Friday that that date is contingent on all officers receiving training at the Massachusetts State Police Academy and getting certified.

"We want to do this right," said Asquino. "Otherwise, we will delay implementation."

About half of the departments 13 officers also work as part-time police officers in other communities and are already firearm certified. MWCC Police Chief Karen Kolimaga currently carries a firearm.

Asquino said he strongly believes in nonviolence, but wants to arm campus police to ensure the safety of the MWCC community.

Also at Thursday's meeting, the trustees approved raising tuition fees by $7 for each credit hour. Asquino said with the average student taking 12 credits per semester, that comes out to an increase of $84 each semester.

Asquino said that $7 fee increase could change, but he said the odds of that happening are slight. Asquino said if the amount MWCC receives from the state were to increase, the fee increase could be lowered or not take place at all.

Students identified as needy would be protected from the fee increase. Asquino said they will set aside $100,000 from the fee increase for aid to needy students to reduce or eliminate the increase for them.

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