Debating Upcoming Tuition Increase: Civil Discourse Op-Ed
LBCC Should Increase Tuition
Authors: Miles Henderson, Cheyanne Rider, and The Civil Discourse Program
Due to low enrollment (and amidst the highest inflation rates in 40 years) our beloved LBCC is in a tough financial position. Current funding projections show LB falling millions below a balanced budget. A tuition increase of 7% that begins this June for the 22-23 academic year, combined with $750,000 in cost reductions and a 5% tuition increase in 23-24 and 24-25, are being proposed to remedy the problem. This sounds like a lot but it appears to be the college’s best option for addressing our current financial deficit.
An alternative proposal for balancing our budget is to cut a portion of our employees and programs. While this may seem like a viable option, there is only so much cutting you can do before you run out of necessary faculty members to run the college and available courses to make the college worth attending. Programs like Theater, Water Wastewater (WET), Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), Horticulture and Adult Re-entry (Empower) have already been cut. While there are no specific programs on the chopping block at the moment, one can’t help but ask “What’s next?” if we have to keep making cuts.
LBCC is doing it’s best to preserve programs and personnel during this challenging time. In addition to the proposed tuition increase, our college is being forced to take $3.6 million from reserve funds. According to Jess Jacobs, Director of Accounting and Budget, “Using reserve funds allows cost reductions and tuition increases to be rolled out responsibly over a period of years rather than all at once. By reducing the amount of reductions that are required there is additional capacity to continue to provide programs and services that students need.”
Even if we didn’t have financial problems due to low attendance rates, tuition would still need to be increased over a period of time. The college’s strategy appears to involve making small tuition increases incrementally rather than one with one large spike that can catch students off guard. This is a smart approach and should be supported.
If we don’t increase the price of tuition and we run out of programs and faculty members to cut, what will become of LBCC? Community college has historically been a place where students can take transfer courses at a lower cost and in smaller classes on their way to earning a bachelor’s degree at a university. It is also a place where people in our community can learn new skills, obtain certifications, and begin successful careers in vocational and trade programs.
Losing quality instructors and programs will damage the quality of education able to be offered to our students. Community colleges across the state are finding themselves in similar situations and continue to lobby for more assistance from the state. But until those requests are answered, the choice is to pay a little more for the school we love, or find another school because ours isn’t offering what we need to succeed.
LBCC Should Not Increase Tuition
Authors: Gabriel Knox, Nick May, and The Civil Discourse Program
Due in no small part to the ongoing pandemic, LBCC is currently experiencing a noticeable decline in enrollment. Difficult times such as these often require organizations to make changes and restructure their priorities. In an attempt to stave off harsher cuts to the college’s budget, a 7% tuition increase has been proposed for the next academic year. This increase would financially burden a student population that skews lower income and feels akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
In a recent survey by LBCC’s Student Leadership Council, 62% of responding students indicated that they wanted tuition increases addressed. This is clear evidence that the pandemic has not only taken a mental toll on the student body, but a financial one as well. As the cost of living continues to climb, it makes sense that increasing tuition might seem appropriate. However, this simple solution ignores the dire financial circumstances some students find themselves in.
For example, 61 students contacted Roadrunner Resources in the first 25 days of January 2022. While this may not be surprising to some, the statistic becomes much more shocking when compared to the fact that Roadrunner Resources was contacted by a total of 344 students over the course of 2021. It’s obvious that a growing portion of our student population are having trouble making ends meet, and an increase like the one proposed could be incredibly alienating.
College tuition is one of the main factors that incoming students consider when finding the right school. Because inflation rates are increasing the costs of necessary goods like housing, food, and gas, money has become a significant stressor. Rather than giving incoming students less incentive to make LBCC their home school, they should try and become a more attractive school.
The challenge is figuring out what measures to take. First, LB should offer more in-person classes. The recent drop in enrollment is a multivariate issue, but COVID is on the top of that list. The significant drop in enrollment began shortly after the initial outbreak occurred. At this point, LB is offering enough online classes to make people happy. Moving forward, the best bet is to offer more in-person classes. By doing so, LBCC will be satisfying the preferences of all students, no matter what class modality they prefer.
As the current pool of students shrinks, it seems like attracting new students would be a better solution than charging the remaining students more. LBCC is a great college, but advertisements we see do not properly reflect our excellent programs and community of educators. It would be in the best interest if more effort was put into outreach. Personal relationships are what make our college special. When LB’s faculty and staff personally connect with members of our community, they provide strong evidence on why potential students should come here for their education.
Our college is in a tough fiscal situation. However, tuition increases are not the solution. Increasing enrollment with more in-person classes and personal outreach is a better way forward.