The college is thinking of raising tuition to $87 a credit, and it looks like it will go up even more in the next five years. The tuition raise would bring on more faculty, reduce Campus Public Safety’s reliance on outside contractors, and increase tech support’s infrastructure–but are these benefits students will get their money’s worth for?
The tuition increase would bring in $208,000 of revenue a year for Central Oregon Community College, according to Kevin Kimball, chief financial officer at COCC. Originally, the plan was to raise tuition five dollars a credit, but when House Bill 5101 was passed in 2013, the state of Oregon increased financial support for community colleges to limit tuition increases. As a result, COCC is only proposing the tuition increase be one dollar per credit.
Before tuition can be raised, however, the COCC Board of Directors have to approve the tuition, and they are normally very conservative when it comes to raising tuition, Kimball said.
“The board is very cautious,” Kimball said. “They talk about, ‘If we’re going to raise tuition, what are we doing to increase student success?’”
Students may also be concerned about what they will get as tuition rises. Savanna Jones, a social science major dually-enrolled at COCC and Oregon State University-Cascades, doesn’t believe that the tuition hike would address the true needs of the campus.
“I feel like there are other things that need to be addressed,” Jones said. “How can we make it easier for more people to go to school? … [Decreasing] bookstore costs, transit costs, more advocacy for low-income students and single parents. … I don’t think our tuition should be increased for security.”
Administration believes the opposite, however–that these changes will have a “direct benefit” for students, according to Alicia Moore, dean of students and enrollment services.
First, more public safety is important to the Redmond campus, which has grown so much in the last few years that it is larger than two of Oregon’s standalone community colleges, and it needs another public safety coordinator, Moore said.
The money would also decrease COCC’s reliance on outside contractors, Kimball said. Currently, Campus Public Safety isn’t able to handle all of the campus’ security issues: The college also contracts security firms like SecurityPros to keep the campuses safe. Kimball wants to see this happen less and less.
“Rather than contracting out, we’d have our own employees that have a better understanding of student needs,” Kimball said. “You hate to have someone come in who doesn’t understand the campus.”
Other benefits to the tuition raise include a new tenure track for speech, Moore said. Adding a new full-time speech professor would expedite students through required classes like Public Speaking.
“I was talking to someone who, for the second term in a row, was too far back on the waitlist to get in,” Moore said. “A full-time speech faculty will add 100 students a quarter — 400 a year.”
The increase would also support Information Technology and the Latino and Native American programs.
If the increase doesn’t pass, Kimball said, there will be a $200,000 loss per year to the college.
“Property taxes are set, state funding is out of our control,” Kimball said. “So the only thing we can really change is tuition.”
Administration is “cautiously optimistic” that the tuition change will pass, Kimball said.
Sidebar: How does COCC compare to the rest?
Even with this and recent tuition increases, Central Oregon Community College remains one of the cheapest community colleges to attend in Oregon, according to Kevin Kimball, chief financial officer at COCC.
While COCC does have higher tuition costs than the colleges near it in size, but the overall cost is lower because student fees are low at COCC. This has its upsides and downsides, according to Kimball.
“It’s a balance,” Kimball said. “Southwestern [Community College] has the highest costs in Oregon and the highest fees, but they athletic facility that’s very nice and many more activities on-campus and athletics.”
Scott Greenstone | The Broadside