For the first time since the Great Recession 13 years ago, tuition and fees won’t be raised for any Central Oregon Community College student next school year.
The COCC board voted unanimously to not raise tuition and fees at its meeting Wednesday night, based on recommendations from college leadership.
The next day, board member Oliver Tatom told The Bulletin approving the tuition freeze was an easy decision.
“To me, everything we can do to manage passing the cost onto students, we should do,” he said Thursday. “It’s one of my happiest votes I’ve had so far as a COCC board director.”
College President Laurie Chesley and Chief Financial Officer David Dona told the board Wednesday that there two main reasons why COCC could afford to not raise tuition: conservative fiscal moves when the pandemic began, and COVID-19 relief from the federal government.
“We are not recommending any increase in tuition or general fees for our students for the coming year,” Dona told the board. “The (financial) discipline and the assistance we’ve received are the two major reasons for that.”
COCC received more than $10 million from the first two COVID-19 federal relief packages from 2020, more than $3.6 million of which went towards student aid, Dona said. The college is expecting to soon receive an estimated $11.2 million, half of which must be used for student aid, from the third federal stimulus package signed by President Joe Biden in March.
Partly because of this federal funding, Chesley said COCC administrators all felt freezing tuition would be possible.
“The whole senior leadership team was in agreement on this one, and when does that ever happen?” Chesley said Wednesday night, chuckling. “I think there was wide agreement that this was the right thing to do.”
After the meeting, board Chair Erica Skatvold told The Bulletin that this was the perfect time to freeze tuition and fees. Not only can the college afford to do so thanks to federal grants, but the past year has put a lot of locals in financial hardship, she said.
“We want to make Central Oregon Community College as accessible and affordable for students as possible,” Skatvold said Thursday. “In a time when a lot people are in financial hardship because of the pandemic or wildfires last summer, it’s a little extra help.”
The tuition freeze means an in-district student would pay $4,527 in fees and tuition for a full, 36-credit load next year — the same cost as this year.
Tuition and student activity fees were raised by 3% for students between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Since 1976, the average annual raise for in-district tuition has been 5.3%.
The last time COCC did not increase tuition for in-district students was 2014, according to college data. The last time there was no tuition increase for any students was 2008.