Increase hits community college

Mai Hoang

Mindful that the tuition increase next spring will make the community college the most expensive in the state, administrators say they will look for ways to keep the university’s primary feeder school accessible.

Tuition for the community college is the same as that for students on the main campus. With the $200 increase approved last month by the Board of Regents, the cost of attending either school next semester will rise to $2,025.

Provost Barbara Burch said she is sensitive to the extra financial burden the increase might create for some students at the community college.

She said part of the tuition increase will go toward additional need- and merit-based scholarships for community college students.

“We’re going to continue to monitor everything to ensure that students who want to come to Western’s community college will have that opportunity,” Burch said.

Sherry Reid, the interim dean for the community college, said she will work with Western administrators to find money for students who do not qualify for financial aid.

“I will be very disappointed if it results in lower enrollment,” she said.

“That’s not the intent.”

With enrollment at the community college booming, Reid said, the increased revenue will help to improve the quality of life for students.

More than $600,000 of the anticipated $5.8 million increase is slated for improvements at the South Campus, including more parking spaces, more classrooms and the introduction of food services.

“I hope the benefits of this initiative will be so dramatic for the community college students that the investment will be worth it,” Reid said.

Burch said community college students are part of the university. Many live in the dorms and all have access to university activities and facilities on the main campus.

Burch said improvements on the main campus also will benefit the community college students.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is being able to accommodate the students who are seeking to come to the community college in a more comfortable manner and all the services and the classes they need and deserve,” Burch said.

Tuition also has increased in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, but still is less expensive than that at Western’s community college. KCTCS tuition this year is $1,185, a 23.4 percent increase over last year.

KCTCS spokesman Bryan Armstrong said increasing tuition is a way to enhance programs at the community and technical colleges in the wake of cuts in higher-education funding.

But he said tuition rates are a constant topic of debate among the system’s board of regents.

“The board is always mindful of keeping tuition and fees as low as possible because we are a point of access for people who may not have other opportunities to get into post-secondary education,” he said.

Armstrong said tuition increases have not caused enrollment to go down. Rather, it has grown more than 50 percent since 1998.

“Our board would never want tuition to turn away one single student, but clearly students have chosen KCTCS in spite of any tuition increases,” he said.

Sandra Woodley, vice president of the Council on Post-Secondary Education, said it is uncertain if the tuition increase will have an impact on enrollment the community college. If price is an issue, she said, there are less expensive community colleges the student can attend.

However, she said, the community college’s close ties to Western may still attract many students.

“They can get started at the community college and have very little trouble transferring,” she said. “That may be a draw for some students and may be worth the extra tuition amount.”

Reid said she has met with student leaders at the community college, and they didn’t object to the increase.

Adam Fiedler, a freshman from Newburgh, Ind., said he was OK with the tuition in-crease.

“If it’s going to improve the standing of the school, I’m all for it,” he said.

But Russellville sophomore Leslie Washer was wary of the tuition increase.

“A lot of people can’t really afford it,” she said.

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]