Chemeketa board considers $11 per credit tuition increase to balance budget next year

Chemeketa Community College (File/Salem Reporter)

The Chemeketa Community College Board of Education is considering a tuition increase that would raise the cost of a year of school for a full-time student by about $500.

Board members will vote Wednesday evening on an increase of $11 per credit – a $4 increase in tuition and a $7 increase in the college’s universal fee. The increase would bring the cost of a credit to $126 starting in the fall.

For a full-time student taking 15 credits per quarter, a year of classes would cost $5,670, up from $5,175 currently.

The college has struggled with declining enrollment and rising personnel costs and has raised tuition in prior years to close the gap.

Chemeketa’s full-time enrollment fell 8% in the fall compared to the previous year, with just under 3,000 full-time students. The college had budgeted for a 3% enrollment decline.

Oregon funds community colleges based on that number, so declining enrollment means less money from the state.

After fall enrollment numbers came out, Chemeketa President Jessica Howard told Salem Reporter administrators are working on an enrollment plan for the college.

Last year, the board approved a $10 per credit increase and laid off staff to balance the budget. Board members also approved a $5 fee for science and career technical courses to cover the higher cost of materials.

The proposed increase is part of a three-year plan to raise Chemeketa’s tuition and fees so they’re closer to the average for similar Oregon community colleges, Miriam Scharer, Vice President of College Support Services, told board members in a January meeting, according to meeting minutes.

Chemeketa has historically been one of Oregon’s least expensive community colleges. Only Clackamas and Tillamook Bay charge less per credit, according to state data. The increase would put Chemeketa closer to the middle of the group, though other colleges are also likely to raise tuition for next year.

The average cost of community college in Oregon rose 30% in the past decade to $5,629 for a year of full-time classes, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Those numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Meeting details: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 at Chemeketa Community College Salem Campus, Building 2, Room 170.

Board members: Neva Hutchinson, Ed Dodson, Ron Pittman, Ken Hector, Jackie Franke, Diane Watson and Betsy Earls.

News tip? Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.