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Fees, tuition to increase at Northwest College

The costs of higher education are going up at Wyoming’s community colleges, and Northwest College is no exception.

The NWC Board of Trustees approved on Monday a list of fee increases for next year to cover technology and other costs in several classes.

Bob Krenz, interim vice president for academic affairs, told the board the number of fee increases and their amounts were higher than usual. That, he said, was because the college was prevented from increasing fees this year due to regulations accompanying federal stimulus money.

“This is carryover from as much as a year ago,” he said.

The largest hike was a fee for the Nursing I course, which will increase from $40 per student to $150 per student.

Nursing III and nursing care of adult for practical nursing course will increase from $30 to $100 per student, and the nurse assistant course will raise from zero to $25.

Krenz said supply and equipment costs for nursing courses have increased significantly, in part because of the increasing number of students in the nursing program.

In the past, the college subsidized some of those costs, in part with money from the NWC Foundation and from the Perkins program, but “we simply have run out of money.

“The previous fees were not based on reality at all,” he added. The approved increases reflect 70-80 percent of the actual cost of supplies and equipment rather than relying on the foundation or the lab and classroom budget, he said. 

Krenz noted that some colleges have gone to a flat fee for nursing students. For instance, nursing students at Laramie County Community College pay a flat fee of $500, Krenz said.

“I may come back next year and suggest a flat fee,” he said, but it likely would be lower than $500.

Following the board’s approval, new $50 fees will apply to students taking computer-aided drafting and project drafting courses. Students in those courses currently pay no fees.

Krenz said the fees cover costs for supplies and equipment costs, such as supplies for the college’s new 3-D printer.

“Some costs are associated,” he said, “and we didn’t get revenue for supplies.”

Other fee increases were more moderate. Fees for equine studies courses will rise by $10 per student, from $30 to $40 per course.

Krenz noted later that other courses also carry fees that didn’t change this year.

“Classes that have fees are classes that are either high tech or with lots of consumables, or both,” he said.

For instance, students generally are charged fees for photography and welding classes.

“Another big bunch of classes that has fees associated are music lessons, which are one-on-one lessons. The fee is how we pay the instructor.”

In addition, “There is a $10 per credit hour fee for online courses,” he said, and fees generally are charged for science lab courses generally as well.

Though course fees may be a surprise for students, Krenz said they are advised about fees in printed and online class schedules.

“One of the reasons the board has always been reluctant to pass these fees is just exactly that — the hidden costs of fees,” he said. “All of us in the academic area share the same concerns. Our problem is that we can’t find a way to pay for stuff (without the fees.)”

Krenz said the college can’t raise tuition to pay for the fees, because tuition at all community colleges in Wyoming is set by the Wyoming Community College Commission.

Even if that could be done, “a general tuition increase to cover costs associated with one particular class seems unreasonable,” he said.

NWC President Paul Prestwich noted that tuition at community colleges statewide will increase next year, following last week’s decision by the commission to raise tuition by 4.5 percent.

The increase, effective for the 2011-12 school year, means full-time, in-state students will pay $3 more per credit hour, $72 more per year, according an Associated Press story.

That is half of a proposal to increase tuition by $6 per credit. Most college presidents said they thought that increase was too high, the story said.

Full-time resident students now pay $1,632 tuition per year.

Wyoming tuition currently is about 66 percent of that for colleges in surrounding states, according to commission staff. Colorado community colleges charge $2,732 a year in tuition.

Prestwich said the tuition hike will provide approximately $150,000 for Northwest College next year.

“That’s helpful,” he said, noting that the college’s enrollment has risen significantly in the last two years, while state revenue for colleges has decreased.

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