The Tennessee Board of Regents has voted to raise costs at all its colleges this fall, Cleveland State Community College included.
All 13 of the community colleges throughout the state will see an average 5.8 percent increase in tuition and maintenance fees.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan blames an “unexpected decline” in state revenues for the colleges’ costs to students being “higher than planned.”
“Had the state been in a position to fund the improved outcomes, the recommended rate increases you see here would have ended up at roughly half of what they are,” Morgan said in an announcement of the increases.
All of the board’s institutions will see increases of some sort for the 2014-15 school year.
Students at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, the closest of which is in Athens, will see the biggest increases in tuition and fees. Those institutions’ rates will be raised by 8.5 percent.
Individual universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system will see varied percentages of increase, with East Tennessee State University seeing the highest cost increase of 6.9 percent.
Dr. Bill Seymour, president of Cleveland State, said he does not see an increase in tuition and fees like this one being passed onto students on a consistent basis in the future, citing the lower-than-usual amount of state funding for higher education.
“I think that’s very specific to this year,” Seymour said.
However, national trends have shown community colleges throughout the country have continued to see increases in tuition and fees each year.
The average cost for in-state “tuition and required fees” at two-year colleges nationwide was $3,080 per year during the 2012-13 school year, according to the 2013 annual digest released by the National Center for Education Statistics.
According to that set of figures, the average cost during the 2011-12 year was $2,970. The year before that, it was $2,794.
Morgan stressed “the need for us as a state” to “strategically look at how we’re going to finance the higher education aspirations that we have so clearly understood as necessary for the future of our state,” while minimizing the cost to students.
“There are basically four ways to finance the activity that we undertake: tuition that we ask students to pay, state appropriations, private fundraising and efficiency — finding ways to do the business we do in a more productive fashion,” he said.
Seymour said Cleveland State has been trying to keep costs to students low by trimming from the budget wherever possible. However, he said the majority of the budget — 75 percent — is tied up in paying the salaries of faculty and staff.
Cleveland State’s tuition and fees totaled $1,906 for a student taking 15 credit hours each semester during the 2013-14 year, making the total $3,813 for the whole year.
The 5.8 percent increase expected for the 2014-15 year is set to amount to a $198 cost increase per semester, according to numbers released by the Tennessee Board of Regents.
By that calculation, local community college students taking a full-time, 15-hour schedule will pay $2,104 per semester or $4,209 per year.
Explaining that many of the college’s students are able to receive financial aid, its president said he does not believe the cost increase will have much of an impact on enrollment numbers in the fall. With financial aid available from state and federal sources as well as the Cleveland State Community College Foundation, he said many students should be able to afford the tuition despite this and any future increases that may arise.
“I understand the concern that’s there ... I don’t minimize the impact on students at all,” Seymour said. “We still are an incredible buy for education.”