No one ever wants to pay more money, but a new survey indicates students considering Fort Lewis College would be willing to pay more in tuition and fees, while room and board prices may be a sticking point.
“They determined what factors actually affect matriculation rate,” said Michele Peterson, vice president of administration and finance for the college. “Based on that, they said resident tuition and fees could increase by 12 percent, while nonresident tuition could increase by 4 percent without driving students away.”
The analysis showed that the price sensitivity point for room and board fees was $10,000, and the college charges an average of $10,680, with prices varying based on which residence hall and meal plan students choose.
“They said that over $10,000 is a trigger point that seems really expensive to families,” she said.
The problem, said Steve Schwartz, vice president of finance and administration, is that the consultant didn’t understand some of the housing challenges and expenses in Durango, which has a 1 percent vacancy rate. The college also doesn’t keep all of its revenue in the general fund, but it covers room and board from an auxiliary fund that also has to charge enough in fees to pay for maintenance, refurbishing and upgrading residence halls.
The other pricing challenge confronting the board is the politics of dealing with the Colorado General Assembly and the Joint Budget Committee. Because the state reimburses the college for the Native American tuition waiver, and more than 50 percent of nonresident students are Native Americans, any tuition increases for nonresident tuition more significantly affects the state’s bottom line.
Several of the college’s revenue streams originate from the state, and one worry is that one of the revenue streams will be cut to pay for any out-of-state student tuition increase, Schwartz said. Nonresident tuition has held steady for seven years, while resident tuition will see an 8.6 percent increase with the incoming school year at the end of August.
While it’s far from perfect, the price sensitivity study conducted by Stevens Strategy will give the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees an idea about which tuition levels start driving away current and prospective students as they consider increases in the future.
“This is another confirmation that Fort Lewis is affordable,” college spokesman Mitch Davis said, “and it informs the board. But they will have to ask themselves: How much of a risk politically do you want to take?”