By MARIA RIGOU
Washtenaw Community College’s board of trustees voted unanimously to increase rates by 2.25 percent for the 2014-15 academic year – and they also agreed to freeze tuition rates at current levels for the Fall 2014 semester if students register and make payment arrangements by July 31.
New tuition rates will increase by $2 per credit hour for in-district, work-in-district and property-in-district students, from $91 to $93; from $146 to $149 for out-of-district students; and from $193 to $197 for out-of-state students.
Before the rate increase, WCC was below the state average, which was $95.
“We have historically … trended at a tuition rate below the averages,” Chief Financial Officer Bill Johnson said. “It shows that the college … has taken to heart its goal to provide excellent education at low costs.”
Board Treasurer Pam Horizsny said that she hopes that the freeze sends a message that students “are really important to us and that we understand the financial commitment that they are making to their education and the burden that it creates.
“The freeze is a great idea, and I hope that many students can take advantage of it,” she said. “With the size of the tuition increase, which I think is very fair and relatively small, the overall impact is really very manageable, given that we are trying to maintain a very fiscally responsible operating budget.”
Students might not understand what the tuition rate freeze means, and many have regarded it with skepticism.
“(I think that freezing tuition) is a good idea – but not a good idea,” Vanessa Baptiste, 26, a business administration major from Ypsilanti said. “You get confused; you don’t know what to register for (that early).”
But others will embrace the freeze.
“It’s a good idea,” Nyisha Marks, a 19-year-old nursing major from Ypsilanti, said. “Might as well register early and be one of the individuals that doesn’t have to pay the extra $2.”
The board also approved a new, separate international student tuition rate that is aligned to the resources required to support WCC’s international student population.
The new rate is $225, compared to $193 that international students paid before, as they were considered as out-of-state students. The average tuition rate for international students in the state was $223 in February. These numbers might change as colleges start to increase rates for the 2014-15 academic year.
Distance-learning courses will also see an increase in the cost per credit hour, from $94 to $103.
The college has had “about a 300 percent increase in (distance-learning) credit hours from 2008 to 2013,” Johnson said. “(We are going to increase) that rate a few more dollars than we would otherwise do, just to get the alignment of the resources with enrollment.”
According to the Michigan Community College Association, on average, 44.7 percent of revenue sources come from tuition and fees. State aid is also tied to tuition rate increases, as colleges risk losing their funding if rates increase by more than a specified percentage.
In accordance to Gov. Rick Snyder’s executive budget recommendation, in order for the college to receive state funding, community colleges will be required to limit any tuition increases to 3.2 percent or less, double the rate of inflation.