The New Community College Tuition Hike

As funding for higher education continues to shrink in some states, more community colleges are considering charging differential tuition rates for their costly career and technology programs.

Most public colleges have historically charged single rates for undergraduate programs, with the idea being that part of their mission is to offer students a range of academic options at minimal cost. In recent years, a growing number of four-year colleges have started to impose differential tuition, not without some controversy, but the discussion is still new at most community colleges, and some fear the impact of such policies.

Pima Community College, in Tucson, Ariz., is exploring the idea after having its state appropriation cut by 30 percent in two years.

“It looks like we’ll have budget cuts for the foreseeable future,” said Roy Flores, the college’s chancellor. “Also, our local property taxes aren’t generating as much because property values have gone down and growth has pretty much been stagnant. As we get squeezed from every corner, I’m concerned about the future of our occupational programs and our ability to respond to people who get laid off and need new skills to get back on their feet.”

Last year, the college’s enrollment grew by nearly 14 percent. Flores noted that student demand is particularly high for occupational programs, such as those in the health sciences and engineering. These programs are often the most expensive to run because of the low student-teacher ratios they must maintain and the costly training equipment they require.

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