CCAC board OKs big tuition increase
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Citing state and local budget cuts, Community College of Allegheny County trustees Thursday approved a 9.5 percent tuition increase, believed to be the largest single jump in the school's 45-year history.
The rare mid-year tuition hike will take effect in January with the spring 2012 semester and is on top of two fee increases also approved Thursday by the board.
Under a new flat pricing formula that was also approved, some full-time students -- depending on their course load --face a tuition increase approaching 37 percent.
The unexpected actions come five months after CCAC set prices in May that, at the time, were expected to remain in force for the 2011-12 academic year.
The new rates will affect roughly 33,000 credit-seeking students, most of them Allegheny County residents. By the board's unanimous vote, the per-credit tuition rate will rise from the current $87.25 to $95.50 for in-county students. Officials said attempts would be made to find additional aid for students.
"I'm disappointed that we're in the position to have to increase tuition to this extent," said CCAC President Alex Johnson. "I feel badly for the students, but I also know that the college is going to make every effort to guide them toward more financial aid."
The decision was not part of the board's original agenda. It came after an executive session at the college's North Side campus.
Told the news, some students there were flabbergasted.
"I pay everything out of pocket. I get no financial aid, no grants. I just think this is going to be a little much, and it's going to make it rougher for students to go to school," said Reda Kirschman, 23, a nursing student from Baldwin.
"You go to community college to save money," she said. "People are going to be upset."
Fellow nursing student Natalie Enoch, 21, of Ingram, said an increase after the school year begins is not enough warning.
"I have to take out a personal loan, and I didn't want to take out more than I had to," she said. "Now, what I calculated for, I have to up it again."
In addition to the change in per-credit charges, the board instituted a new flat tuition rate of $1,432.50 covering students taking 12 to 18 credits a semester. And for some of them, that will mean dramatic percentage jumps.
For instance, CCAC says the typical load taken by a full-time student is 13.5 credits, which under the per-credit system had cost them $1,178 a semester. Those students will see their tuition rise in January by about $255 or 22 percent.
Students taking the minimum 12 credit hours needed to be enrolled full time will be hit even harder in the wallet. They now pay $1,047 per semester and face a $386 or 37 percent increase.
Mr. Johnson said the flat rate, equal to taking 15 credits under the old system, does have financial benefit for those students with course loads closer to 18 credits.
The college had not raised tuition in the two years prior to its May vote, but Mr. Johnson said this time CCAC could not hold the line. The college already has instituted cost-cutting moves, including a freeze in new hiring and suspension of administrator raises to deal with a succession of funding cuts.
More such moves may be on the way, officials said.
Earlier this year, CCAC saw its state appropriation cut by 10 percent or $3.5 million. In addition, CCAC learned in July that Allegheny County was withholding $2.5 million in aid it supplies to the college as part of an effort by the county to address a $15 million state cut it had just received.
The school has less ability to use reserves, since the portion of those funds not already committed to a specific use are less than $10 million.
Mr. Johnson said that even with the tuition increase, CCAC's prices are fifth-lowest of the state's 14 community colleges.
In addition to the tuition, the trustees approved a $3 increase per credit in the technology fee and a $1 increase in the student services fee. Thursday's vote means nonresidents will pay $191 per credit hour.
First Published September 2, 2011 12:00 am