The average tuition rate for a credit hour at one of the 15 community colleges was around 145 dollars, which is up three-point-two percent last year. Department of Education Community Colleges Bureau Chief, Kent Farver, says that increase isn’t far from what the students have been seeing. “The 2014-2015 average rate stayed kind of within what the traditional increase was per year — averaging anywhere from two to four percent,” Farver says. He says mandatory fees are the key issue he watch in compiling this year’s report.
“In the 2014-2015 school year, the mandatory fee went up, what they are paying per credit hour,” Farver says. “We’re continuing to monitor that. And it’s part of the total cost of enrollment picture that we are trying to put together with that.” The mandatory fees went up 12-dollars, 42 cents or a seven-point-four percent increase. That puts the total cost of enrollment at 157-dollars-78 cents for each credit hour, or an overall increase of two-point-nine percent. Farver says enrollment is part of the formula driving community college costs, and after hitting a peak in 2010, an improving economy has seen less students going that route.
“When the country is going through a recession, community college enrollment actually goes up. And when times are good, community college enrollment traditionally goes down,” Farver says. He says as the enrollment starts to come back down, the schools are having to deal with fewer students. The state has appropriated more money for community colleges, which Farver says has helped some.
“The legislature has made additions to state general state aid the last couple of years, but historically that is getting colleges back to where they were prior to the recession,” according to Farver. “So they are still very reliant on tuition and fees. Anytime you take a lower number of enrollments coming into the community colleges, that has an impact of what their enrollment will be, which ultimately impacts their budget.” Community Colleges face another possible hurdle to bringing in students as a new formula for distributing state revenue to the three state universities emphasizes in-state enrollment. Farver can’t say how that might impact community colleges.
“We don’t have the data to be able to really answer that question yet, but that’s definitely something that we will be looking at,” Farver says. “It is hard to imagine that an increased focus on in-state enrollment at the regents will not have an impact on community colleges at some point — because they are drawing form the same population.”
“Time will tell, and we will definitely be monitoring that,” he says. Farver’s report finds the average semester hour cost of a credit hour at a public university is 267-dollars, 87 cents, compared to 156-dollars, 23 cents at a community college.