Tuition jumps at state's community colleges


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Iowa's community colleges are charging more than ever for tuition and fees at the same time state aid for students is shrinking.

Community college tuition and mandatory fees in Iowa increased by 5.95 percent this year, according to the 2012 Tuition and Fees Report. The Iowa Department of Education's annual report showed tuition fees are still increasing, but by less than they have in recent years.

The report also showed, in the last two years, tuition and fees have increased, and state aid has simultaneously decreased significantly. In 2010, tuition and fees were about $275 million while state aid decreased to around $150 million.

In eastern Iowa, Kirkwood Community College's tuition and fees were consistently less than the state's averages.

The school's resident tuition and fees were lower than the state's average for both this year and last. Kirkwood's resident tuition and fees per credit hour was $128, compared to the state's average of $142.92.

Lois Bartelme, the head of Kirkwood's Board of Trustees, said she is proud of the trustees' efforts to keep tuition affordable.

"We'd all like to keep the tuition as low as we possibly can," Bartelme said. "Most years we have to raise it. But we have to keep college affordable for our students. I'm very proud of the fact that Kirkwood has kept our tuition as low as we can."

University of Iowa Assistant Provost Michael Barron said the UI doesn't expect increasing community college tuition and fees to affect student enrollment at those schools. However, he said, the UI has seen an increase in transfer students.

"Cost is always a concern for everyone, and how to meet that, but I don't think that [community college tuition] will have any effect on whether or not a student transfers to [the university]," he said.

Tuition and fees in Iowa brought in roughly $281 million during the 2010-11 academic year. The state average for Iowa resident tuition and fees, based on 12 credit hours, for the 2011-12 academic year is just over $3,100, in comparison to about $2,900 last year.

"[The schools] always try to keep tuition rates in mind when they're looking at the following year," said Roger Utman, the administrator of the Iowa Department of Education's Division of Community Colleges. "The main thing is that the colleges have tried to keep the costs down as much as possible."
Utman said the schools' budgets are based on local property taxes as well as money received by the state.

Although tuition has steadily increased over the last 10 years, annual tuition and fees at Iowa community colleges was 60 percent above the national average in 2009. In the 2010-2011 academic year, Iowa community college tuition and fees were about $3,500, while the national average was a little more than $2,000.

"That's a concern for the colleges, and especially the trustees of the college," Utman said. "They try to keep the tuition as low as they can."

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