CMC cuts tuition for bachelor’s degrees, hikes other rates

Staff report

Colorado Mountain College is bucking the trend of college tuition hikes by decreasing the rate area students will pay for bachelor’s degree-level courses, while also increasing tuition for two-year degree programs.

The CMC Board of Trustees, meeting in Edwards this week, voted to decrease in-district tuition for bachelor’s-level courses by $19 per credit hour for the 2018-19 year.

The trustees also voted to increase tuition for in-district associate-level courses by $15 per credit hour. However, that will be largely offset by a cut in textbook costs for students through a new book rental program, the board announced in a news release.

The vote on tuition rates was 6-1.

“We are unaware of any public college that has ever chosen to voluntarily reduce tuition, and hope that this tuition cut reflects a good faith effort to meet the long-term needs of students and demonstrate prudent financial management,” said Matt Gianneschi, chief operating officer for the college.

Gianneschi noted that, even before the 23 percent cut in tuition for bachelor’s courses, the college had been named by the U.S. Department of Education as having the third-most-affordable bachelor’s degree in the country.

“Everyone on the board is very sensitive to the impact of tuition and other related educational costs on our students,” said Patty Theobald, chair of the CMC board and Summit County’s representative on the board.

“We hope that by equalizing tuition rates for lower-level and upper-level courses, students will better be able to complete a bachelor’s degree,” Theobald said. “We want students to know that the college is their partner to help them find federal and state financial aid grants and scholarship opportunities from the CMC Foundation.”

The college has been working for several years toward bringing together tuition for associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees, rather than having two separate rates, college officials also explained.

When bachelor’s degrees were originally implemented at CMC, the tuition rate was set higher because the state didn’t allow the college to use state funding to support those new degrees. That is no longer the case, according to the release.

Trustees noted that by keeping bachelor’s degrees affordable, students have a greater incentive to complete a four-year degree.

With the changes adopted by the board on Wednesday, in addition to the reduced rate for in-district students, CMC service-area students will see a $32 decrease, while out-of-state students will see a $13 increase.

Tuition increases for associate-level courses are $15 for in-district, $27 for service area, $33 for in-state and $13 for out-of-state students.

Because the college is instituting a new textbook leasing program in the fall that will greatly reduce students’ textbook costs, the net increase in the cost of attending college for in-district associate students will be only 1 percent, while in-district students taking bachelor’s-level courses will save 23 percent on overall net costs.

In fact, the net cost to students taking bachelor’s-level courses will decrease by 18-23 percent compared to current costs, for all but out-of-state students, according to the release.

Average annual textbook costs for full-time students are $1,200 to $1,600 per year, according to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, while CMC expects its new textbook program to cost a full-time student a maximum of $780 per year.

The tuition adjustments also come closer to making up for reduced property tax funding due to the state’s Gallagher amendment, and mitigate the effect of inflation on the college’s operating costs, Gianneschi said.

Through budget cuts, the college has already absorbed more than $2 million in ongoing cuts to property tax funding due to the Gallagher amendment, and anticipates that, in 2019-20, that permanent cut could reach an additional $3.9 million.

Last November, voters in the six-county college district rejected a CMC ballot question asking to give the trustees the authority to adjust the district’s mill levy to make up for funding shortfalls associated with Gallagher adjustments in the assessment rate for residential property in the state.

“We have to continue the conversation about the detrimental impact of the Gallagher amendment on our rural communities,” Ken Brenner, trustee from Steamboat Springs and chair of the audit committee, said at the Wednesday meeting.

“While students need to meaningfully participate in the financing of their education, we should not simply pass on revenue cuts caused by the Gallagher amendment to our students,” he said. “That’s an unsustainable path forward.”

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