According to Mark Twain, there are three types of lies in this world: lies, damn lies and statistics. The Board of Regents embraced the latter type of lie when they released their first press advisory about this year’s tuition increases.
The board claims that “this is the lowest increase in tuition, for most USHE students, in more than a decade” and that “when compared to tuition at colleges and universities in other states in the region, average tuition in Utah remains low.” For students at SLCC, this just isn’t the case.
SLCC will see a five percent increase in tuition at the Tier One level for the 2013-2014 school year. In the last two years, SLCC had a 4.5 percent and a five percent increase at the Tier One level.
Clearly, neither 4.5 nor five is greater than five, but because the Board of Regents is comparing the overall increase for all students in the eight state schools as an average per student, it can get away with stating that this is the lowest increase in a decade.
Community college prices in other states in the region are also lower, some significantly, than SLCC’s current tuition prices.
In Wyoming, Laramie County Community College students pay $1,320 per semester and Western Wyoming Community College students pay $1,093 per semester.
In Colorado, for students who qualify for the College Opportunity Fund (COF), the cost for full time students is $1448.92 per semester for those at Arapahoe, and $112.75 per credit with the COF for those who attend Colorado Northwest Community College.
In New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College charges $44.30 per credit hour while a full time student at Central New Mexico Community College pays $579 for full time while taking academic transfer courses.
In Nevada, Truckee Meadows Community College charges $75.50 per credit hour, and in Arizona, Coconino Community College charges $1,020 for 12 credits or $1,275 for 15 to 18 credits. Eastern Arizona College, which bills itself as “Arizona’s oldest and most unexpected community college,” charges $880 for 12 credits and over.
SLCC charges $132 per credit hour after the first credit or $1,585 per semester for any student taking between 12 and 18 credits. All of the above costs include tuition and fees for residents of that state in 2012-2013 as stated at the web sites for the various community colleges.
SLCC is more expensive than every other community college listed with the exception of Colorado if you do not qualify for the COF, which would typically only happen if you had over 145 undergraduate credits.
The statistics that the Board of Regents are using are derived from institutions across the state that are not necessarily community college equivalent, so when they say that tuition remains low throughout the state, they are not talking about the one college where student costs matter most.
Community colleges are supposed to bridge the gap for students who would otherwise be unable to afford to attend college at the cost of a four year institution or who need to develop the study habits to excel at a four year institution. They are also supposed to give returning students the opportunity to update skills or gain new skills as jobs change and the workforce needs to develop.
To tout this Tier One increase as the lowest in a decade is like telling your lover that this outbreak of herpes is the smallest you’ve had in ten years. The difference is that herpes outbreaks don’t compound like tuition increases.
Since the 2002-2003 school year, SLCC tuition has gone from $945 to the 2012-2013 price of $1,585. That is an increase of $640, which represents a 68 percent rise in tuition costs. Next year, SLCC tuition and fees will be approximately $1,667.50 depending on how the student fees are calculated. That is a 76 percent increase.
For a state government that made education a priority last year, Utah should be ashamed of its blatant money grab from students. The state is mortgaging student futures through student loans for degrees that are worth no more than a high school degree was ten years ago.
As long as students are tied up in classes and at their jobs working to pay tuition rather than at the capitol lobbying the legislature, tuition rates will keep going up.
Utah can be ashamed of more than its bad air quality in a state that prides itself on the beauty of its landscape and its stance on same sex marriage when the state was founded on a religion based on love. It can now be ashamed of its treatment of students and its citizen’s accessibility to getting an education, especially in a state that believes that people should take responsibility for themselves and their economic standing.