Chemeketa board unanimously raises tuition for fifth year in a row

The Chemeketa Community College Board of Education at a Feb. 26, 2020 meeting (Taylor Wynia/Special to Salem Reporter)

The Chemeketa Community College board of education voted in favor of a tuition increase for the fifth year in a row Wednesday night.

For the 2020–21 school year, students will now pay $126 per credit. That’s a tuition increase of $4, jumping from $91 to $95 per credit, and a universal fee increase of $7, up to $31. 

For full-time students, this means paying $5,670 a year. This $495 increase means 9.5% more coming out of students’ pockets over the course of a year.

“As much as we hesitated to increase these costs of attendance for our students, we, as a college, remain committed to offering excellent academic programs and services,” said Miriam Scharer, Chemeketa’s Chief Financial Officer. “And that commitment does come at a cost.”

Scharer said these tuition increases are offset by Chemeketa’s “commitment” to textbook accessibility through Chemeketa Press, digital course access and the college’s lending library.

“[This] is a necessary measure, unfortunately,” Scharer said, “to ensure the fiscal sustainability of the college in light of reduced funding due to enrollment and increased cost.” 

Chemeketa’s enrollment has been on a steep decline for the past decade, which has caused tuition and fees to rise by $48 per credit since 2009, when full-time students paid only $3,510 a year. 

“I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen this tuition increase a lot over the years that I’ve been on the board,” said Ron Pittman, a board member. “The state support percentage has dropped. Our only alternative has been tuition increase, and I regret that, but it’s an absolute necessity until we can see a bigger commitment from our state resources for higher education. I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

On Feb. 12, Chemeketa held a forum to discuss the tuition increase with students. Vice President Jim Eustrom, Ryan West, director of Financial Aid and Scharer sat on a panel to hear questions and concerns from those affected most by the increase.

“Students are never excited” about tuition increases, said Riley Dunagan, President of the Associated Students of Chemeketa. 

Dunagan spoke with many students at Chemeketa, most of whom seemed “very understanding” about the tuition increases, as long as it’s going toward student resources and education.

“I always regret it when we have to raise tuition,” said Diane Watson, the board chair. “But I want to make sure we have a quality institution … and that we continue to be an institution of excellence — and that’s gonna take money.”  

Taylor Wynia is a journalism student at Chemeketa Community College and editor-in-chief of the Chemeketa Courier. This article is part of a partnership between the Courier and Salem Reporter.