Tuition hike for community colleges nixed – for now

Community College

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Tunxis Community College in Farmington

Officials of the state’s community colleges have backed off plans to seek a steep tuition and fee hike for thousands of students starting next semester – and instead plan to study the idea.

Under a proposal released last week by the administration of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, tuition and fees would have increased for students who take more than 12 credit hours. Currently, community college students who pay full-time tuition can take up to 18 credit hours.

The finance panel of the Board of Regents, the college system’s governing board, was set to vote Thursday on the plan, which would charge students $150 in tuition and $74 in mandatory fees for each credit they take over 12. A student who took 18 credit hours would be charged an extra $1,344 over the current cost of $2,084 a semester, a 64.5 percent increase.

But on the eve of the vote, as pushback mounted, the college administration pulled the proposal indefinitely.

“A number of concerns have been raised by board members and by presidents of our community colleges, and we want to be responsive and to consider all facts before asking the board to vote on this matter. As a result, we have moved this to a discussion matter at this time and will bring it forward at a later date,” reads an updated report to the finance panel.

More than 9,000 students would have been impacted by the increase each semsester – nearly one-in-six community college students.

The proposal drew immediate outrage from Republican legislators.

“Reject this proposal,” Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, wrote to the regents on Oct. 11. “Find ways to maintain an affordable higher education for our students.”

“The state absolutely cannot continue to reach into the pockets of our young people to balance budgets,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield in a press release. “Continuing to raise the price of that education defeats the purpose of community colleges. These hikes happen in bad budget years and good budget years…

“Graduating on time is hard and stressful enough as it is, and now the Board of Regents wants to add a major financial disincentive? Punishing good students who are pursuing a full-time course load is bad public policy,” Kissel said.

Manchester Community College

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CT Mirror

Manchester Community College

The leader of the college system, however, pointed to declining state support and the fact that other nearby states are already charging community college students per-credit.

“Our Community Colleges receive 61 percent of their revenue from the state, therefore, it’s important that we prepare for what we know are difficult budget times for everyone. We have an obligation to our students to examine any potential revenue-generating or cost-savings strategies in order to protect the high quality education our schools provide,” Mark Ojakian, the president of the public college system, said in a statement Wednesday.

The finance panel still plans to discuss the issue at its meeting tomorrow but does not plan on voting on the matter – a move that makes it highly unlikely that students next semester will see the increase.

“We believe that the sustainability of the community colleges will require systemic changes in the near future and therefore propose un-banding of tuition as one avenue for discussion,” college officials said in a revised board agenda item. “We look to solicit questions and concerns from our board members on this item and will return to the Finance Committee with our final request when appropriate.” the revised board item reads.