Tuition hikes won't offset increasing costs

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A 1.1 percent tuition increase isn't good news for Colorado college students or Colorado colleges but for different reasons.

The 1.1 percent increase approved earlier this month by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education doesn't come close to offsetting increases in operational costs, including a state mandated 3.1 percent salary increase for employees, said Les Marstella, Colorado Northwestern Community College's chief financial officer.

"(The tuition increase) was really a hard thing for us to swallow," Marstella said. "With our other cuts from the state, it makes it kind of difficult."

CNCC's state allocation for 2004-05 was cut nearly $500,000. Colorado Commission on Higher Education officials say the tuition increase was "reasonable and fair for both institutions and students."

Marstella said the 1.1 percent tuition increase, overall, looks like a 2 percent decrease when you subtract it from the total jump in operating costs.

What it means to students equates to about a $11 per semester increase in tuition fees.

"A 1.1 percent increase? They won't even notice the difference," Marstella said.

The average tuition at CNCC is $1,000 per semester for its 1,015 full-time equivalent students.

Those receiving financial aid -- such as Pell Grants -- won't see the difference. That aid increases when tuition does, Marstella said.

Moffat County residents taking classes through CNCC's Craig campus won't notice the difference at all. The CNCC Board of Control uses a portion of its locally generated mill levy to pay the tuition for any Moffat County resident who attends CNCC.

The tuition increase means the funds budgeted for that program just won't stretch as far, but the board dug into its reserves to increase funding to the scholarship program for 2004-05.

"With the good deal that we've got, (the tuition increase) is probably not that big of an impact," said Dean Hollenbeck, interim CNCC president.

Last year, the board budgeted $540,000 for the tuition assistance program and bumped that to $625,000 for the 2004-05 year.

Hollenbeck said that increase should cover the tuition increase as well as accommodate additional students as the Craig campus' enrollment rate continues to grow.

CNCC-Craig saw a 10 percent increase in summer semester enrollment this year and expects enrollment to continue to climb.

"We're still the best buy in Colorado," Hollenbeck said. "There are a lot of good things happening here."

About 35 percent of CNCC's total enrollment is credited to the Craig campus.

CNCC offers classes in Rangely, Craig, Hayden, Meeker and South Routt County.

The increase will affect all state-funded colleges except the University of Colorado, which was granted permission to increase tuition by 8.3 percent as it works to privatize.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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