Students from Colorado should plan for an 8.6 percent tuition increase at Fort Lewis College when the fall semester begins, while nonresident tuition will remain the same for the seventh year in a row.
The increase would amount to $504 annually for a full-time student. While it won’t be official until the FLC Board of Trustees meets June 3, all the trustees involved in a budget teleconference Tuesday morning endorsed the increase. Their endorsements came after more than an hour of discussion about the flat nonresident tuition recommendation by staff.
“In-state tuition has doubled since the last nonresident increase, and the impact is being felt in different parts of the college,” Trustee Steve Short said. “I’m OK for this year, but I don’t think this has satisfied my concern long-term, and I think this is an issue that will circle back around.”
Because most, if not all, of the other public four-year institutions in Colorado are also expected to raise tuition to the level allowed in the state budget, Fort Lewis will continue to be the second least expensive school for residents, said Michele Peterson, associate vice president of finance and administration. Metropolitan State University of Denver is the least expensive.
Maintaining the nonresident tuition rate isn’t because Fort Lewis is concerned about price sensitivity – the college has the lowest out-of-state tuition and fees of any public four-year college in the state, just over $17,800. Most other colleges are in the $19,000 to $21,000 range, with the University of Colorado Boulder at $34,000.
“This is political,” said Steve Schwartz, vice president of finance and administration at FLC. “The Joint Budget Committee originally proposed capping our nonresident tuition at a zero percent increase, but Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said it wasn’t fair to single out a single institution with that cap, and the JBC would have to trust the Board of Trustees to do the right thing, whatever that means.”
At issue is the Native American tuition waiver. The state reimburses the college for those students who qualify, and about half of the out-of-state students are Native Americans. The cost to the state has been steadily increasing, up about $1 million this year and projected to increase another $1 million next year as that population continues to grow at the school.
“Long-term, we just can’t keep avoiding the nonresident tuition increase,” Trustee Tom Shilling said. “We’ll kick it down to next year, but we need to work with the folks in Denver to get them to understand that eventually we have to increase it to make our budget stable.”
The trustees approved room and board increases at their February meeting, leading to a one-year total cost change of 4.2 percent for the 1,400 or so students, primarily freshmen, who live on campus.
Student fees will remain the same for the 2016-17 year, but student government is expected to request an increase for the next year when its contract with Durango Transit expires. Fee increases for some individual courses, most notably art and science, were approved previously.
The money raised from the tuition increase will go to raises for faculty and exempt staff. Classified staff, whose pay schedule and raises are determined by the Legislature, will not get a pay increase next year, but the college plans to create a one-time incentive program for those employees. The trustees have set a priority of keeping faculty and exempt staff compensation at a level with peers in higher education, and the raises will keep them within the 100 percent range of those peer salaries.