LCC faces $8.4 million budget shortfall, given new tuition model
As community colleges across the United States continue to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19, Lane Community College is no exception.
The LCC faces a budget shortfall of $8.48 million for fiscal year 2023, according to staff. The college hopes to bounce back and is exploring creative ways to meet budgetary needs, including considering a new tuition model.
The drop in enrollment is the main reason for the deficit.
“Since the start of the pandemic, enrollment at Lane is down more than 30% (25% statewide),” LCC spokesman Brett Rowlett said. “Unlike past recessions, the ongoing economic upheaval caused by the pandemic has not translated into increased enrollment. In fact, more students attend part-time, which increases running costs.
Enrollment is one factor in the college’s deficit; staff cost increases, COVID-related expenses and inflation are also contributing, he said.
Introduction of a “banded” tuition fee model
During a school board work session last week, LCC staff shared a first look at an alternative approach they plan to take to tuition. They hope the concept, called “bundled tuition,” will increase credits and bring more students to LCC.
Bundled tuition band credit tiers count together and instead of charging students per credit, charge a flat rate per “band” or tier.
The pricing structure is either per credit or tiered (one price for each credit group):
- One to five credits, per credit.
- Six to eight credits, grouped.
- Nine to 11 credits, grouped.
- 12 to 18 credits, grouped.
The more credits students take in a band, the higher the value for students. By taking 15 credits under this model, students would pay less than they would under a pay-per-credit model, according to LCC analysis.
This striped pattern is typically used in four-year colleges. It is envisioned in the hope of encouraging students to take more credits, especially those taking the minimum of 12 full-time credits. It would take students three years to complete a two-year program if they only took 12 credits per term, Jarrell told the board.
Students who take more credits pass at higher rates, said LCC Provost Paul Jarrell. They are less likely to drop out and more likely to complete their programs on time. “They graduate or finish with less debt and enter the workforce earlier,” he said.
“So the push is really to recognize that 15 credits per term is the mark and the sweet spot for students to be able to finish on time and finish with higher rates and for us to better retain students,” he said. he declares.
Jarrell said about 55% of LCC students are enrolled part-time. Administrators see an advantage in this model to incentivize students to take more credits and possibly transition some students from part-time to full-time.
National downward trend in enrollment
LCC had already plummeted in enrollment, losing thousands of students over the past decade, enrollment reports show.
However, community colleges across the country have struggled to retain and attract students since the onset of COVID-19, resulting in a historic drop in enrollment.
In the 2020-2021 school year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a study that showed community colleges declined an average of 9.4% in fall 2020. Oregon colleges suffered similar lossesand at that time, LCC was reporting even bigger drops.
Some board members said they were encouraged by the administration’s willingness to “think outside the box” on how to address the enrollment issue.
Still others expressed concern about moving to a new model that students may not want or be able to take full advantage of.
They also reiterated that they would like to avoid any increase in tuition fees for next year.
The hesitation behind moving to a bundled tuition model is the uncertainty of it, Jarrell said, and doesn’t want to create additional risk for the college.
“So we looked at that and wanted to show a model that would generate the same amount of revenue, as if we just had a uniform tuition increase for credit, but rewarded students for taking more credit with big discounts. on tuition fees.
No decision has yet been made regarding the tuition fees for the next academic year.
Other strategies for approaching the current budget
Closing such a large budget gap over time will not be easy, Rowlett said.
However, the college has taken some steps to get ahead, including:
- Revision of the current tariff structure
- Implementation of a new strategic enrollment plan
- Growing partnerships such as those with the city for use of the Mary Spilde Center and University of the Pacific on the main campus
- In addition, a hiring freeze was put in place in February
“A tuition increase may also be necessary,” Rowlett said. “The college is also exploring measures to reduce expenses, including eliminating positions and maintaining vacancies.”
The LCC Board must adopt and implement a balanced budget by June 30. The budget committee, made up of the school board and appointed community members, will begin meeting in early May.
Contact journalist Jordyn Brown at [email protected] or 541-246-4264, and follow her on Twitter @thejordynbrown and Instagram @registerguard.