SEASIDE — The Clatsop Community College Board, facing lackluster enrollment and funding, will consider a $3-per-credit tuition hike next month.
“None of us feel like increasing tuition is something that we want to do,” College President Christopher Breitmeyer said Tuesday. “We’d rather not do it. But we think at this time it’s necessary, given where we are in terms of the current funding that we’re experiencing.”
Tuition and fee revenue is one of the largest sources of funding for the college, along with property taxes and state funding. Each $1 increase translates to about $25,000 in revenue, said JoAnn Zahn, the college’s vice president of finance and operations.
Tuition and fee revenue is down nearly 8.5 percent from the same point last year, equal to around $200,000. The college developed its budget based on an increase of 8 percent in enrollment from more course offerings and the redeveloped Patriot Hall.
“That’s concerning,” Zahn said of the drop. “That’s a big chunk of change.”
The proposed increase would bring the college from $99 to $102 per credit, effective in the summer term. The college last raised tuition in 2014 by $1, from $98 to $99 per credit, to fill a gap left by state funding.
“Prior to that, we had raised it every year in the 14 years I’ve been on the board,” said Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, a board member who has vowed to not support any more tuition increases. “I just can’t vote for it anymore.”
The average tuition and fees paid by students have increased statewide by more than 30 percent over the past decade. During a recent meeting of Oregon’s 17 community college presidents, most indicated their tuition would go up to between $107 and $112 per credit, Breitmeyer said, adding the college’s increase was among the most modest and would still leave it as one of the more affordable places to take classes.
“Most institutions are going up between 5 and 10 percent for the upcoming year,” Breitmeyer said.
The college would attempt to offset the increase in tuition by targeting financial aid toward lower-income students, increasing the college foundation’s support and looking at ways to lower textbook costs, he said.
College enrollment generally falls as the economy improves, and Clatsop County is experiencing its lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in more than 40 years.
The college is experiencing the largest drop in enrollment among Washington state students, who are down about 12 percent from a year ago, compared to between 8 and 8.5 percent among other student groups, Zahn said. The decline from Washington state, she said, might be related to expanded online offerings by Grays Harbor College.
While enrollment is falling, the college has increased spending 11 percent from the same point last year, mainly because of costs from Patriot Hall and new instructors in welding and Spanish, Zahn said.
While looking to hike tuition, the college board also voted Tuesday to provide a 3 percent annual salary increase to full-time faculty over the next two years, and the same pay bump to support staff next year.
Part-time faculty received a 4 percent annual salary increase two years ago. The college board also voted to increase most part-time temporary employee wages by 25 cents per hour to keep pace with minimum-wage increases.
“We are making a considerable investment in our people,” Zahn said, acknowledging previous pay cuts, freezes and staff reductions when the college was in the Great Recession.
The college will likely look at borrowing in the short term to cover cash flow before property tax revenue comes in November, Zahn said, because of a possible purchase of property at the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station campus and investment in a new online campus operations system.
“I feel comfortable where we are right now,” she said of the financial picture. “We’ll just have to continue to monitor what our resources are.”