October 23, 2014

Community college tuition goes up 2.8%

The cost of going to an Iowa community college went up slightly in the last year. Kent Farver is the bureau director for community colleges with the Iowa Department of Education. “With the 15 community colleges on average, the tuition rates rose 2.8-percent for this current school year. The average tuition and fees per credit hour among the 15 colleges is $151.89 — and that was a 2.7-percent increase from the previous year,” Farver says.

Farver presented his annual report to the State Board of Education during their recent meeting. “The range for tuition and fees is from $134 to $174 across the 15 community colleges,” Farver says. “Iowa has been pretty steady the last several years, we rank third in the eight midwestern states where we compare tuition as far as how expensive it its to go to a community college. So, we had the third highest rates, Minnesota and South Dakota’s rates remain higher than Iowa’s.” The average tuition for a full-time student enrolled in one of Iowa’s community colleges will  $4,210 in fiscal year 2014.

Farver says enrollment is the biggest factor in the cost of tuition at the community colleges.  “On average in 2012, 58-percent of the community colleges’ unrestricted general fund came from the tuition and fees and state aid was right around 30-percent,” Farver explains. “Tuition drives the revenue at the community colleges. Any impact in enrollment up or down is going have, obviously and impact on the community colleges.”

One of the big recent impacts on enrollment at the community colleges is the changing economy. Farver says fewer people are looking to upgrade their skills or change careers by going to the community colleges as more jobs become available. “During the recession — 2009-2010 — the community colleges saw record enrollment. Now that the economy has turned the corner and people are going back to work, there’s kind of two factors: number one people are going to work and not going back to school or completing their schoolwork and leaving. Or maybe only taking part-time courses instead of full time,” according to Farver.

Farver says state aid to community colleges has been creeping back up and that also is a factor in their tuition rates. The report shows the average cost of  community college tuition will be 37-percent lower than the average tuition rate at the three state-supported universities for the 2014 year.

The Board of Regents froze tuition at the  University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa for this school year and are asking for enough state money to do the same thing for the next school year.

See the full community college tuition report here: Community College tuition PDF