FLC tuition to rise another 9%

Loss of state funding forced increase, officials say

Tuition will keep climbing next year for in-state students at Fort Lewis College. For the second year in a row, the college’s Board of Trustees on Friday approved a 9 percent tuition increase for resident students.

The board also voted to narrow the tuition window, which is the range of credits students can take without paying more per credit hour. The new window will apply to all students and will be between 12 and 18 credit hours next year. This year, the low end of the window was 11 credit hours.

With the changes, in-state students taking 12 to 18 credits will pay $4,800 per year starting in the fall of 2012, up from $4,048 this year. Students taking fewer than 12 credit hours or more than 18 credit hours will pay $200 per credit hour. Last year, the cost per credit hour was $184.

The increase will amount to the highest in the college’s history in terms of dollar amount, said Steve Schwartz, vice president for finance and administration.

Nonresident tuition will remain the same at $16,072 per year for students in the tuition window.

The trustees also approved an increase in mandatory student fees from $51.45 this year to $55.40 next year. The increase includes a new arts fee that allows students free admission to theater, music and collaborative events at the Community Concert Hall.

Also, room and board rates will rise by an average of 4 percent.

The two-year tuition increase was part of the Financial Accountability Plan the college presented to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education in 2010. Most colleges in the state presented similar plans for tuition increases in anticipation of cuts from the state.

The current revenue situation has forced colleges to look longer term and consider other sources of revenue such as increased tuition, donations and public-private partnerships, Schwartz said.

“Instead of looking at our planning horizon time frame as a five-year time frame, we’re looking at 10- and 15-year time frames,” he said. “How do you plan and budget for that and what’s your institution going to look like if we’re going to continue to thrive let alone survive?”

Currently, higher education in Colorado is expecting a $29 million cut this year, Schwartz said. The most recent tuition changes approved by the trustees will net Fort Lewis College about $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, other colleges around the state are expected to propose tuition increases for next year, Schwartz said. University of Colorado administrators, for example, are proposing a 15.7 percent hike.

FLC plans to increase resident tuition annually by 9 percent for the next three years, said Mitch Davis, the college’s spokesman.

The college decided on 9 percent after considering decreases in state funding, the expiration of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money and the tuition rates charged by similar colleges around the nation, Schwartz said.

“A lot of it goes simply to offset cuts,” he said.

Also at the Friday meeting, the trustees approved a multiyear sublease with the city of Durango for the Durango Welcome Center.

The welcome center is a collaboration among the college, the Durango Area Tourism Office and the Business Improvement District.

It will be located on the corner of Eighth Street and Main Avenue and is scheduled to open in early May.

The center is just one more example of the impressive amount of collaboration between the city and the college, FLC President Dene Kay Thomas said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com