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LCC to raise tuition 12 percent

| April 23, 2004 12:00 AM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

After a decade of nominal tuition increases, Lincoln County Campus will raise tuition costs by 12 percent beginning fall semester.

The Flathead Valley Community College board of trustees voted Monday to appeal to the Board of Regents to approve the increase.

³Historically over the past years, while everybody else was doing eight or nine percent increases, Flathead Valley Community College was doing four or five,² said LCC Director Pat Pezzelle.

Increases in workers¹ compensation insurance, health insurance, and utility expenses created a budget shortfall, making the tuition increase necessary.

³The college has tried to absorb these costs, but there comes a point when you can¹t absorb anymore because you can¹t continue to operate in the red,² Pezzelle said.

With the increase, FVCC will see a $2,000 surplus on the balance sheet, a small amount of money that could quickly evaporate with any fluctuation in expenses.

³All of the money that¹s coming in is going back out again,² Pezzelle said. ³We¹re looking to break even.²

For a full?time student, the tuition increase equates to roughly $80 more per semester. Ninety percent of the students at LCC enjoy some form of financial aid, be it loans, scholarships, or grants. The tuition increase should not make attending the college cost-prohibitive.

³If you¹re a full-time student at the University of Montana, your first year you¹re going to spend about $4,000,² Pezzelle said. ³With us you¹re going to spend half of that. When you look at those kinds of increases, we¹re still the best deal around in terms of affordable, quality education.²

Pezzelle has also struggled with budget shortfalls, contending with roughly $47,000 in increased expenses, including overhead, utilities and staff salaries.

³I have no control over those things,² he said. ³It¹s not like I can say, ŒWe just won¹t do that this year. Two days a week we¹ll operate without power.¹ That¹s not going to happen. The tuition increase doesn¹t allow me to hire any more staff. I don¹t have any line items that get big and fluffy because of this. We¹re still counting pennies.²

The tuition increase will affect students enrolling in classes after June. Continuing education classes will not be subject to the increase, Pezzelle said.

³We operate those classes to break even,² he said. ³Any money we make goes right back into the program.²

Tuition hikes are a reality at every educational institution, Pezzelle said.

³The increase was inevitable,² he said. ³I equate it to when you go to a restaurant. There¹s a whole menu with all different prices on it. You can decide to eat a salad for $2.95 or a full meal for $11.95. At LCC, you pick how much you want to spend on your education.²