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RCC eyes tuition increase to offset lost funds

The Rogue Community College Board has proposed boosting tuition by more than 3 percent for all students, starting this summer.

The proposal would bump tuition for state residents to $66 per credit from $64 per credit, a 3.1 percent increase. Tuition for students from out of state would go up 3.9 percent, to $80 from $77 per credit, and international students would face a 3.3 percent increase, to $220 from $213 per credit.

The proposed increases are necessary to help offset declining state funding and changes to the formula used to distribute state money, according to the resolution the board introduced March 20.

RCC also has approved the layoffs of six full-time faculty members, 15 non-academic workers and two administrative employees in response to a tight budget.

In previous discussions of the college's financial crunch, RCC President Peter Angstadt said he expected the revenue that the state provides to the school to drop about $1 million in the coming budget year. School officials blamed the drop on the reduction in the amount of money budgeted for community colleges statewide and a change in the way that money is distributed.

A new distribution formula designed to equalize the amount spent to educate students at all community colleges in Oregon started in 2004 and is being phased in. Under the equalization plan, the State Board of Education included all local property taxes collected for community colleges in a state fund and doled it out based on student full-time equivalents (FTE), a measure derived from the number of credits full-time students earn. Because voters in Jackson and Josephine counties had provided higher operating levy rates than voters in community college districts around Portland, RCC stands to lose money, officials said.

Quynton McDonald, an RCC psychology student who plans to transfer to Southern Oregon University after completing basics at the community college, said he would like to see the state step up support for higher education, but he understands why officials must call on students, too.

"If they are going to maintain classes and services to the community, they have to raise tuition," he said.

This proposed tuition increase comes on the heels of a $5 per credit increase approved last year that boosted tuition by 8.5 percent. Prior to that, RCC officials had held tuition steady at $59 per credit for three years after a more than 20 percent increase in 2003. The 2003 increase from $49 per credit to $59 per credit prompted a steep enrollment decline.

While McDonald notes that students are always crunched for money and often have to take on debt to pay for school, "This won't kill students."

"This increase won't prevent most people from attending," he said.

Still, he worries that tuition increases will become regular occurrences, continuing a trend that could price the working class out of higher education.

The board is scheduled to vote on the tuition increase at its April 17 meeting.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485 or aburke@mailtribune.com