Next academic year, students at Colorado Mountain College will feel the effects of a down economy. The college's board of trustees decided Monday to increase tuition for the 2011-2012 academic year after anticipating cuts in two of the college's three main sources of revenue: property taxes and state funding. The hike equates to about an 8 percent increase for in-district students.
"With two of our three main sources of revenue - property taxes and state funding - declining, tuition will be under pressure to make up part of the shortfall," said Stan Orr, school board president.
"With this small increase in tuition, we're able to help counteract those revenue decreases," said Debra Crawford, CMC's public information officer.
The 2011-2012 academic year starts this summer. Tuition for in-district students is currently $49 per credit hour and will rise $4 to $53 per credit hour. In-state students will see a $7 per credit-hour bump, and out-of-state students will pay an additional $23.
The college's main source of revenue - property tax - has already fallen by more than $7 million in the current year, resulting in a 12.4 percent drop in income for the school. Crawford said the college expects an even greater fall in funds when properties are reassessed next year.
"As we have been expecting, our property tax revenues are starting to take a double-digit hit," said Dr. Stan Jensen, president of the college. "So over the past several years we have planned accordingly by investing in our reserves, moderately adjusting tuition and seeking increased grants and other types of funding. We will continue on that path through what we anticipate will be several years of challenging funding paired with increasing enrollments."
While the state budget hasn't been announced yet, the college also foresees cuts coming from the state level. Any state cuts to the school in recent years have been made up through stimulus dollars, but Crawford said CMC doesn't anticipate receiving those funds this year.
"The governors draft budget did reduce funding for higher education. So based on that, were anticipating a drop," she said. "The board will be watching very closely what happens with state funding. By this time next year, we should have a better idea on the property tax picture as well."
Crawford said she doesn't know if the tuition increase will be permanent. She said the faculty looks at tuition rates each year to decide if they need to increase. Last year, rates increased $4 per credit hour. The year before, there were no changes.
Crawford said she anticipates other Colorado colleges raising their rates at least 9 percent. She said other state schools are more dependent on state dollars.
"Because other colleges in the state are expected to raise their tuition by similar or higher rates, Colorado Mountain College will still offer the best educational value for students." Orr said.
CMC administrators are also seeking expanded grant funding to help compensate for budget shortfalls. Earlier this year, the school received a $2.55 million federal grant for student support services.
Crawford said the college is ready to weather this year's - and any future - budget cuts. She said the school has little debt, is conservative with its operational budget, and has back-up reserves in case of emergency.
"We've been expecting this for some time, so we've been planning for it," she said.