In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:
JCCC has opted to keep tuition steady during the pandemic. The current rate is $94 per credit hour for Johnson County residents. Revenue from tuition makes up less than one-fifth of the college’s total budget. Should the college consider raising tuition or lowering it? Why? And how would doing either of those things impact JCCC’s budget?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:
One out of four students (6 million) in American attend a community college during their lifetime, perhaps right after high school or later on when training for a new career. We know that two years of community college brings substantial return on lifetime earnings. As state and federal funding for community colleges continues to decline, there will always be a tension between raising local taxes or raising tuition. It is incumbent on all stakeholders (business community, legislators, residents, and students) to manage the shared responsibility of maintaining the vibrancy of a community asset that has been the engine of the Johnson County economy for 50 years. Raising tuition is always an option, but Trustees should do everything we can to ensure that JCCC is affordable and accessible to every person who wishes to take advantage of this important community resource.
Lee Cross (incumbent)
I am for keeping tuition at an affordable rate. I am proud of the People of Johnson County for investing in our students, College, and economic engine. While we should consider raising the mill after years of it being frozen, we should work to make sure it stays as affordable as possible. JCCC has helped build one of the strongest economies in the country and to do so would jeopardize our economic prosperity. So, the State of Kansas should honor its original commitment to community colleges and fund them at the 1/3 rate promised in 1969.
It is imperative to our community and students that we do not raise tuition. However, it’s not necessary to lower tuition. JCCC is very affordable, and it should stay that way. Our College opens doors for people that may not have opportunities elsewhere. Our generous community is partnering with our students to provide the best education that we can afford.
Students must also have some financial investment for the partnership to work. Personal investment encourages student responsibility and contributes to a sense of self-accomplishment.
Paul Snider (incumbent)
JCCC provides an affordable and quality education. I don’t champion a tuition increase but it is a reasonable consideration for the College. I supported a $1 increase in 2018. JCCC charges county residents $94 (including fees) a credit hour. That’s the lowest in Kansas and far lower than Metropolitan Community College. Even a dollar or two increase will keep the College affordable and competitive. However, it wouldn’t really impact the budget materially, with each dollar adjustment equaling about $300,000/year. Increasing enrollment would help the budget more than a tuition increase and should be the first focus.
Wayne H. Sandberg
Did not respond.
No, at this time, the College should focus on increasing enrollment and reducing any costly inefficiencies in the budget instead of changing the current rate.
Tuition must be annually evaluated, while maintaining our goal of providing students with the highest quality education at the lowest cost to them.
Students can consider taking advantage of the Kansas Promise Scholarship and other scholarships provided by the Foundation to get additional assistance. There is a national student loan debt crisis, and our students have the opportunity to attend and not incur debt.
It is unreasonable to expect tuition to remain unchanged when the cost of doing the business of the college increases and expect taxpayers to continually bear that burden. JCCC tuition per credit hour has remained ostensibly the same for the past 5 years ($93 – 2017-2019; $94 2020-present). This compares very favorably to Kansas State University ($316) and Kansas University ($336). The reason for the difference in tuition is the Johnson County taxpayers’ contribution. In 2013, local taxes made up 55% of JCCC budget revenues. Today it is 67%. During the same time, student tuition contribution went from 25% to 18%. Fiscal restraint remains a problem at JCCC. A better way forward is to work towards agreed upon ranges of contributions from taxes and tuition and have the discipline to adhere to those standards. Therefore, when budgets increase, there will be proportionate increases in tuition and taxes. These changes will keep JCCC leadership more mindful of their spending.
I believe that an education is one of the most important things that a person can receive. I want to be a voice on the Board of Trustees that’s at least asking questions- would it be possible to shore up the budget and find a way to lower the cost of tuition? If so, I would absolutely support lowering the cost of tuition, even if slightly. This would be the most direct and most impactful way that the college can make education accessible and open up to as many students as possible. Additionally, when we look at tuition cost, we’ve seen an obvious dip in enrollment. If more students would be able to access classes at JCCC due to lower tuition costs, more students would be enrolled, which in turn would lead to more income from the cost of enrollment.
On Friday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:
Transparency with the college’s decision-making and the Board of Trustees has been an issue that has come up in recent years. Do you think the board is transparent enough in its processes? Why or why not? How can the Board and JCCC more broadly be more open and accessible to students, faculty and taxpayers?