During its March 4 meeting, the East Central College Board of Trustees unanimously approved a 20 percent tuition increase, as well a $4 per credit hour increase in general fees. The increase, the first in two years, will take effect in June 2019. Despite the adjustment, the College remains one of the most affordable higher education options in the region.
“Any increase in tuition is not recommended lightly,” said Dr. Jon Bauer, president, “but the decision was made with the best interests of the institution and our students at the center. I believe the recommendation strikes the balance between maintaining affordability and continuing to provide the quality we want for our students.”
Dr. Bauer noted a majority of students have a wide range of options available to assist them with the cost of going to college. Among first-time, full-time students, approximately 95 percent receive some sort of financial assistance and nearly half receive a Pell grant. Additionally, the tuition adjustment will not affect students taking advantage of the A+ Scholarship Program.
By attending East Central College, students will still save nearly $10,000 in tuition over a two-year span compared to a four-year public university.
“There is also scholarship assistance for many students with financial need,” Dr. Bauer explained, “we will continue to work to ensure financial assistance reaches as many students as possible, including our part-time students.”
The tuition increase will help offset the continued reduction in state funding to Missouri’s community colleges as well as declining enrollment trends. Increasing health care costs and aging infrastructure expenses were also factors in the decision.
The recommendation was supported by the East Central College Budget Committee, which consists of more than 20 faculty, staff and administrators. It is chaired by Dr. Jon Bauer. The Tuition Subcommittee is chaired by Dr. Phil Pena, vice president of finance and administration.
“We understand this increase is significant,” said Dr. Pena. “The Budget Committee thoroughly considered the impact to students but also recognized this was necessary for the college to attain a sound financial state.”
The Budget Committee informed the Board of Trustees it will include a five percent budget reduction at the departmental level in the 2019-2020 budget due in May. As its work continues, it will also explore right-sizing the institution, evaluating/adjusting faculty and adjunct faculty course loads and seeking out other revenue generating ideas.
Meanwhile, to help cut other costs for students, East Central College will pilot an open educational resource (OER) textbook program this summer.
“OER’s are licensed to be freely used,” said Robyn Walter, interim vice president of academic affairs. “Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a textbook, our students will get the same, quality information from a free or low-cost resource.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of textbooks increased 88 percent between 2006 and 2016. On average, community college students spend more than $1,400 a year on books.
“Financial aid doesn’t always cover textbooks,” said Walter. “This initiative will help ease that burden for our students. We are starting small, but we are hoping to expand as we move forward.”
New tuition rates and fees can be found at eastcentral.edu/finaid.