CMC to decrease cost for bachelor’s degree
EDWARDS — The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees took an unheard-of step at their board meeting at the college’s Vail Valley campus in Edwards Wednesday, Feb. 7, by voting to decrease in-district tuition for bachelor’s-level courses by $19 per credit hour. The trustees also voted to increase tuition for in-district associate-level courses by $15 per credit hour in the 2018-19 year, which is largely offset by cutting textbook costs for students through a new book rental program. 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, the college’s chief operating officer.
Even before the 23 percent cut in tuition for bachelor’s-level courses, the college has 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 of Trustees. “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. 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.”
Joining associates, bachelors
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. When bachelor’s degrees were originally implemented at CMC, their tuition rate was set higher because the state didn’t allow the college to use state funding to support those new degrees, but that is no longer the case. Trustees noted that by keeping bachelor’s degrees affordable, students have a greater incentive to complete a four-year degree.
Cuts in bachelor’s-level courses for 2018-19 are $19 per credit hour for in-district students, $35 for service-area students and $32 for in-state students, with a $13 increase for out-of-state students. Tuition increases in associate-level courses are $15 for in-district, $27 for service area, $33 for in-state and $13 for out-of-state students.
However, because the college is instituting a new 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 to 23 percent compared to current costs, for all but out-of-state students (who will see no impact on their costs for tuition and books combined).
Average annual textbook costs for full-time students are $1,200-$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.
Tax funding shrinking
Tuition that is closer to covering the cost of education will help cover reduced property tax funding due to the Gallagher amendment, as well as mitigate the effects of inflation on the college’s operating costs. 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.
In light of the Gallagher amendment’s very serious threats to all local governments and special districts in rural Colorado, the board of trustees reinforced its commitment to finding a long-term solution to the constitutional conundrum.
Trustees heard in the meeting that through the college’s 50th anniversary Finish What You Started scholarship for students returning after being out of college, $70,000 was awarded to 150 students. In addition, $100,000 in President’s Scholarships are being awarded to 100 local students per year. In addition, the Colorado Mountain College Foundation has awarded an average of 316 scholarships each year for the past three years, totaling just under $3 million.
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