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CTC system considers tuition changes

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Students in West Virginia's community and technical college system could possibly see changes to how they are charged tuition.

Because of impending budget cuts, the community and technical college may be better off changing to a per credit hour rate system, CTC Chancellor James Skidmore told the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability at an Oct. 9 meeting. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered all state agencies to cut 7.5 percent from their budgets so the state can cover a potential budget deficit caused by growing health care costs. One way the community and technical college system hopes to cut its budget but still bring in revenue is by changing its tuition structure.

"Currently a student tuition rate is based on 12 credit hours as full time," Skidmore said. "A student pays a particular rate at 12 credit hours. If they're taking 15 credit hours, they still pay the 12 credit hour rate. That's the full time student. What we've talked about is charging a per credit hour rate based on 12 credit hours. In other words, a student takes 12 credit hours at that rate and beyond that it's a per credit hour rate."

Schools within the system charge varying tuition rates. Skidmore said in order to find how much students would have to pay beyond the 12 credit hour threshold, they would need to divide the tuition amount by 12. That results in the per credit hour rate. That rate would then be applied to any credit hours over 12. This is a tuition increase for students who take more than 12 credit hours, but Skidmore listed a few reasons why the change is needed.

"First, when we're trying to be innovative and do some accelerated programs, it would be more credit hours in a semester. Again, we're calling 12 credit hours full time students. If a community college does that, and say they're offering 16-20 credit hours in accelerated programs and they're meeting every day, they're losing revenue. Instead of that spread over 2 semesters where you pay the 12 hour rate, you're taking 18 hours but still paying the 12 hour rate. So there's a disincentive for community colleges to offer these programs."

Second, the proposed change would prevent students from registering for 15 or 18 credit hours then dropping those courses at no cost to them.

"Right now, sometimes students will come in and register for 15 or 18 hour then maybe drop down to 12. That fills up classes," Skidmore said. "They drop out before the semester is over and move down to 12. They didn't pay the extra money … but they filled up a seat and maybe other students could get in."

Skidmore said although 12 credit hours is considered full-time, most students take 15 credit hours per semester in order to complete a two-year degree in four semesters. With special permission, students may take 20 or 21 credit hours. However, the community and technical college system includes non-traditional students who may take courses part-time. However, those part-time students won't feel any effects of the proposed change.

"It only impacts those students taking above 12 credit hours," Skidmore said. "It doesn't affect part-time students. It impacts no students except those who are taking more than 12 credit hours."