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Community colleges approve tuition hikes

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(The Center Square) — Tuition is increasing at Virginia community colleges for the first time in five years due to a unanimous decision from the State Board of Community Colleges.

Virginia’s 23 community colleges are increasing their tuition by $4.61 per credit hour, about 3% of the previous in-state tuition rate. For most of them, tuition will be $158.61 per credit hour for the 2023-24 school year or $2,379.15 for a 15-credit-hour semester. Other mandatory fees will vary, depending on the college.

Eight of the colleges decided not to modify their tuition differential rates. Though the tuition increase is the same for those schools, the total tuition rate is not, and their tuition rates will be posted on their websites.

The last time the commonwealth’s community colleges raised tuition rates was in 2018, by approximately 2.5%, according to Kristin Westover, president of Mountain Empire Community College.

The decision comes a few months after many of the commonwealth’s public universities determined to do the same. Most are increasing between 2.85% and 4.7%, but some, like Christopher Newport University, say they may reduce their increases if more is apportioned to them in the state budget.

A revised budget has yet to be passed.

The board was attempting to wait for updated school funding numbers from the General Assembly, but decided not to wait any longer.

“We reviewed the options of further delaying a decision, which would have adversely impacted our students, or we could move forward with a tuition increase to ensure continued high-quality instruction,” said Board Chair Peggy Layne. “Unfortunately, this increase will not fully cover all of the cost pressures faced by our community colleges in these inflationary times.”

“Without an amended budget, the 2022 Appropriation Act budget for fiscal year 2024 is now in effect as of July 1 and contains approximately $32.7 million in mandatory costs to VCCS colleges, of which the state covers 58% ($19.1 million) and colleges are expected to cover 42% ($13.6 million),” Westover told The Center Square. “Even with the 3% tuition increase, Virginia’s Community Colleges still face an estimated $8.7 million in inflationary pressures from ongoing commitments, leases, obligations, and utilities.”

Virginia’s community colleges currently cost “about one-third of the comparable tuition costs at Virginia’s public four-year universities,” according to a statement by the state’s community college system.

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