Students from out of state pay more than twice as much per credit as Central Oregon residents, bringing in an extra $600,000 to Central Oregon Community College each year.
In Oregon, 15 of the 17 community colleges charge a separate out-of-state tuition, but COCC is the only college to also have separate, higher tuition rates for students who live in-state but out-of-district.
Twelve of those 15 colleges—including COCC—that charge out-of-state tuition have an out-of-state rate that is at least double the price of in-district tuition. At COCC, tuition prices are partially dependent on how much money residents already contribute to COCC through tax dollars, according to Director of College Relations Ron Paradis.
COCC Tuition Policy
The three divisions of tuition are:
In-district: $76 per credit. Central Oregon residents pay property taxes, a portion of which help support COCC. According to Paridis, 41 percent of COCC’s operating budget comes from property taxes.
Out-of-district, but in-state: $101 per credit. Out-of-district residents don’t support COCC through property taxes, but they do pay income tax which make up 12 percent of the college’s budget. COCC students from Oregon’s border states also pay in-state tuition.
Out-of-state: $206 per credit. Students who come from out-of-state have not previously contributed to COCC through the payment of taxes, so the higher tuition ensures that they’re providing as much support to the college as other students, according to Paradis. In 2011, legislature passed a law saying that colleges couldn’t charge out-of-state veterans that much for tuition. Tuition for veterans from out-of-state is now $89 per credit.
“The aim is to get people to pay roughly the same amount,” said Paradis. “In-state students compensate more through taxes.”
Other Oregon community colleges receive 22 percent of their budget from local property taxes and 39 percent from state income taxes. Because of its higher out-of-state and out-of-district rates, COCC receives less money from the state to keep funding “more or less equal” between all of the colleges, according to Paradis.
If the Board of Directors decided to eliminate the out-of-district rate, therefore becoming like other community colleges, COCC would lose $573,000 and have to raise in district tuition by three dollars to compensate. If a flat rate was put into place for all three divisions, the college would lose one million dollars and would have to raise in-district tuition by five dollars, according to Paradis.
“The board has chosen … that we’d rather keep the in-state tuition lower … knowing out-of-state students have not supported us [through taxes],” said Paradis.
Though the focus of recruitment is to cater to local students, COCC does more out-of-state recruitment than most community colleges—according to Aimee Metcalf, director of admissions and records—particularly in geographically similar areas like Colorado and Montana. Because of that, Metcalf said the out-of-state tuition rates make sense fiscally.
“One student from out-of-state essentially pays for a recruitment trip,” said Metcalf. She said she thinks the higher tuition is still a fair price for out-of-state students.
“We still feel like we’re providing an educational bargain,” said Metcalf. “It’s less expensive than university options and has the connection with OSU Cascades.”
Earning In-State Status
In order to qualify for in-state tuition, prospective students must live in Oregon for at least one year during which they did not attend any college classes. If a prospective student moves to Oregon and immediately starts taking credits, they will be considered an in-state student two years from their enrollment date. This policy, which was put into place in 2003 and is modelled after the Oregon University policy, is meant to ensure that those who only intend to be in Oregon long enough to get their degree contribute as much as Oregon residents, according to Metcalf.
“[The Board of Directors] were interested in the university model and wanted to protect district students,” said Metcalf.
Since the increase in out-of-state tuition, there has not been a decrease in out-of-state attendance.
A community college’s responsibility is to its local students, according to Paradis, and the out-of-district and out-of-state rates ensure that tuition can stay low for those local students.
“The purpose of having different tuitions is to make sure Central Oregon residents pay the lowest tuition possible, based on the fact that we’re widely supported by local tax dollars,” said Paradis.