Local tax dollars spare CNCC from tuition hike

While tuition for state colleges climbs throughout the state -- as much as 8.9 percent at one institution -- Moffat County tax dollars keep those increases at bay for local students.

Gene Bilodeau, CNCC dean of Learner Instruction and Support Services, said the Colorado Northwestern Community College, which has campuses in Craig, Meeker, Rangely, Hayden, and south Routt County, finds itself in a unique situation because of the local mill levy.

"It's not very fun to think about what we would have to do without the millage," Bilodeau said.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens approved a Colorado Commission on High Education recommendation earlier this month that would push tuition up around the state with the highest increase of 8.9 percent to occur at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

State legislators cut more 13 percent of high education funds at their last session as well as many other cuts in order to eliminate a $1 billion deficit in the state's overall

budget.

But Moffat County residents who attend CNCC can attend credit-bearing classes without the tuition expense because money generated through local taxes.

Bilodeau said the Craig campus spent about $450,000 on student tuition this fiscal year. It receives about $1 million every from county taxes.

Bilodeau said before CNCC entered into the state university system in 1999, it was supported solely through local tax money. When it entered the system it was allowed to keep the mill levy.

Local boards in each respective area oversee money that is generated in Moffat and Rio Blanco

counties. The current board members in Moffat County are Chairwoman Barbara Pew, Kandy Kropinak, Dana Gregory, Jim Ross and Link Derrick.

The money is spent on tuition and in other areas, such as the paralegal program, the small business development center as well as the new nursing program that is scheduled to start this fall.

"The board has the discretion to use the money as they see fit," Bilodeau said.

Bilodeau pointed out that the tuition benefit works throughout the CNCC system so a Moffat County resident, for example, could attend the dental program in Rangely and still receive the tuition benefit.

Bilodeau said it was too early to tell what kind of impact the tuition increase around the state might have on the student population at CNCC.

Summer enrollment has seen a jump from 190 to 356 when comparing last year to this year.

"A number of classes haven't started yet so we don't know what the final numbers are (for the summer semester)," Bilodeau said.

The dean theorized that CNCC could see more business in light of the sluggish economy.

"When the economy is not doing well, we see people going back to school to get new skills or to sharpen up the skills they have,"

Bilodeau said.

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