The state legislature approved Colorado community colleges, including Colorado Northwestern Community College, to raise tuition by 9 percent in preparation for probable cuts in state funding, according to the Colorado Community College System.
Amid state budget cuts for higher education, CNCC has to raise costs to cover growing enrollment.
"We make a concerted effort to keep tuition raises as low as we can," CNCC President John Boyd said. "But it's like any other business, we have to pay for what we are doing."
Last year, CNCC's gross income was above the state average for community colleges, but the school still relies on state funding to offset costs.
The state cut $600,000 this year from CNCC's funding. However, almost all of that was made up in stimulus money.
But breaking even isn't enough.
With increased enrollment, the tuition provided by the students isn't enough to cover costs. The tuition hike makes up for the funding that the state cannot provide for the increased number of students, thus the 9 percent increase.
"Typically, tuition goes up with cost of inflation," Boyd said. "This year was unique with a very uncertain budget. Since legislative funding is questionable, they needed to give colleges opportunity to meet costs."
Some of the increased revenue from the tuition will go to scholarship programs, Boyd said, in an effort to limit the impact on students.
Boyd said the state budget cuts have caused the school to consolidate programs and take a close look at operational costs.
Moffat County residents who attend CNCC have 75 percent of their tuition paid for by a mill levy tax, making the 9 percent increase almost undetectable to them, Boyd said.
Boyd said, overall, community colleges are doing well during the recession and enrollment is generally up.
CNCC has seen a 5 percent increase in enrollment each of the last two years. While there are no numbers yet on next fall, Boyd said applications are up. Summer enrollment, while usually small, has risen 15 percent.
"It just comes with the bad economy," he said. "People go back to college because the job market becomes tighter, and education really becomes the discriminator when looking for a job. Some people may have to change job skills, and they'd come to CNCC to get that."
CNCC also has put an emphasis on recruiting and advertising efforts.
"We've been really aggressive with our advertising and put together some great programs," Boyd said. "And this is the result. With everything we've got going on, and the new building in Craig, we anticipate that our student population is going to grow substantially."
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or firstname.lastname@example.org.