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Tuition Freezes Thaw at Some Community Colleges

Tuition Freezes Thaw at Some Community Colleges

Inside Higher Ed

Sara Weissman
March 25, 2022
Faculty members and students at Connecticut community colleges are concerned about a recent vote by the state Board of Regents to raise tuition at the institutions by 5 percent. They are particularly dismayed about the timing of the decision, which comes as many students are still recovering—or still suffering—from the financial fallout of the pandemic.
Tuition for students taking 12 credits or more will rise from $4,476 to $4,700 per year, a relatively modest increase. But critics of the bump say many students cannot afford to pay higher tuition and stopped taking classes last year and this year because of competing financial needs. System officials say the hike is an unfortunate but necessary step as the institutions face an estimated $60 million shortfall. What’s more, the state’s community colleges lost a third of their students over the past decade, with the most staggering year-to-year enrollment losses occurring during the pandemic.
“Nobody ever wants to raise tuition,” said Ben Barnes, chief financial officer for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. “I’d rather give it away for free, frankly.”
He estimates the tuition increase could raise up to $4 million, which “is helpful, but it’s not going to be enough to solve our problems.” The enrollment declines have been a driving factor behind a controversial merger of the 12 community colleges planned for summer 2023.
Similar decisions to raise tuition are being made at community colleges across the country ahead of the 2022–23 academic year. Some college leaders describe the increases as a defensive move to stave off future financial problems prompted by steep enrollment declines, budget shortfalls and rising inflation. Some community college administrators say modest annual tuition hikes are a return to normal after a series of uncharacteristic tuition freezes instituted in response to the pandemic.
Some rankled faculty and staff members and students argue that the economic downturn and job losses caused by pandemic make even small tuition hikes burdensome.
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