Despite enrollment losses, inflation, community colleges propose little to no tuition increases

Several of the state’s 17 community colleges won’t raise tuition, while others will do so by a few dollars per credit hour or a couple hundred dollars each year

By: - April 25, 2022 6:00 am

Chemeketa Community College. Despite losses in enrollment and rising costs, most community colleges in Oregon will raise tuition by just a few dollars per credit hour. (File/Salem Reporter)

Oregon’s 17 community colleges have committed to keeping tuition low next year in the face of rising costs from inflation and declining enrollments.

Four community colleges are planning no tuition increases, including Portland Community College, the state’s largest by enrollment.

At most of the other community colleges, tuition will go up by no more than a few dollars per credit hour, with the maximum increase being $8.50 per credit hour, at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Tuition increases have wither been proposed or accepted at all seven of Oregon’s public four-year universities, adding anywhere from $475 a year to more than $700 per year to tuition costs.

Depending on the college, between one-third and half of Oregon community colleges’ funding comes from tuition, according to the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The rest comes from state appropriations and local property taxes.

From the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year, community college enrollments dropped by 23%. In 2021, enrollments were down about 1%, a sign that pandemic effects on enrollment might be waning.
Overall, community colleges enroll 60,000 fewer students today than they did a decade ago – a 40% drop – as Oregon’s population has grown. 

Where tuition will rise by a few dollars

In-state tuition at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Tillamook Bay Community College in Tillamook and Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham will go up by just $2 per credit hour, or about $24 per semester for a full time student. Full-time is defined as 12 credit hours per semester. 

At Mt. Hood, tuition for out-of-state students will go up by $4 per credit hour, but those students make up less than 1% of total enrollment. Tuition for in-state residents at Mt. Hood has gone up 34% in the last nine years, according to the University’s website. Students will pay $465 more per semester this fall than students who enrolled in the fall of 2013. 

Ross Tomlin, president at Tillamook Bay Community College said of their increases that, “Our board feels it is better to make small increases each year rather than waiting several years and having to make a much larger increase. All costs are going up and we are trying to keep up with expanding costs without burdening students too much.”

At Southwestern Community College in Coos Bay and Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, each credit hour will cost $3 more. At Treasure Valley, the increase is a response to higher costs for utilities, insurance and other expenses, according to Abby Lee, a public information officer for the college. 

In Bend, Central Oregon Community College will raise tuition by $4 per credit hour for Oregon residents. Last year the college kept tuition flat and waived online course fees for students. Laurie Chesley, college president, said in a statement that “rising costs associated with inflation and the Covid-impacted economy, as well as making sure our employees are fairly compensated, have necessitated a slight tuition increase.”

Where tuition will rise by $5 per credit hour or more

Umpqua Community College in Roseburg will raise tuition by $5 per credit hour to bring a semester of full-time classes up to $1,380 for Oregon residents. It’s an increase of about $60 per semester. 

The increase of nearly 5% is still well below the 8.5% inflation experienced nationwide, said Suzi Pritchard, the director of communications at the college. 

“We will still remain one of the lowest tuition costs in the state,” Pritchard said. 

Umpqua will also introduce a new plan to lock-in first-year tuition rates for students, so they pay the same price over three years that they did during their first year. 

Tuition at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany is also up about $5 per credit hour. At Linn-Benton, students have expressed they would rather have a small increase each year rather than a larger one the next to make up for lost ground, according to Jennifer Boehmer, executive director for institutional advancement.

Clackamas Community College in Oregon City and Chemeketa Community College in Salem will each raise tuition by $6 per credit hour. At Chemeketa, the increase is due to rising and inflationary operations costs and enrollment declines, according to Aaron Hunter, the college’s chief financial officer.

The steepest increase would be at Lane Community College in Eugene, which is awaiting board approval on raising tuition $8.50 more per credit hour, which includes a raised technology fee per credit hour. 

“We sincerely regret that Oregon students have to pay tuition increases, but to continue to offer the programs and services that they need to get sustainable jobs and transfer opportunities, Lane Community College, like so many others, needed to increase tuition,” according to an email from Margaret Hamilton, the college president.

Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles did not answer calls or emails requesting information. 

Klamath Community College in Klamath Falls will decide in May about raising tuition.

Where tuition will not go up

Tuition will remain flat at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Portland Community College and Oregon Coast Community College in Newport. It is the second year in a row that Oregon Coast has left tuition unchanged. 

The school’s president, Brigitte Ryslinge, said in an email that the decision to do so “makes a difficult budget scenario even more challenging, but our board and college administration agreed that if we could manage another year easing access for students, that was the right thing to do.”

 

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.

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