COUNCIL BLUFFS — Reivers, brace yourselves for another tuition hike.
Actually, if you're a community college student in Iowa, expect to shell out more for classes in the next school year regardless of what institution you attend.
A preliminary budget from Iowa Western Community College presented Monday includes a $10-per-credit-hour tuition increase to address the shortfall largely created by an anticipated 5 percent enrollment decline.
Odds are that Iowa's other community colleges also will consider tuition increases after each of the 11 institutions raised rates for this school year. Iowa Western's $11-a-credit-hour jump last year was the second-largest in the state, representing a 7.2 percent increase. Western Iowa Tech Community College raised its tuition 13.2 percent.
For the current school year, resident tuition is $149 per credit hour, and nonresident tuition is $154. If the rates assumed by the preliminary budget are implemented, a $10-per-credithour increase would translate to a 6.7 percent bump to resident tuition.
The property tax levy for Iowa Western also will increase next year, although that's largely a one-time increase to pay for an early retirement program, said Eddie Holtz, vice president of finance.
"The early retirement we approved back in November — that is pretty much all of the increase," Holtz said. "You will see a significant decrease in early retirement next year."
Property taxes are slated to go up about 38 cents per $1,000 in taxable valuation next year.
Holtz said Iowa Western will continue to look for cost savings in the next few months as the Iowa Legislature works on setting how much community college and other educational institutions will receive in funding next fiscal year.
Iowa Western's budget assumes that Gov. Terry Branstad's proposed 1.5 percent increase for community colleges will be implemented and a 5 percent enrollment decline will occur, two significant factors that could shift the budget.
The unrestricted general fund levy doesn't grow in Iowa Western's preliminary budget, which sets maximum allowed levy rates for the community college. The board is expected to vote on adopting the budget next month and likely will set tuition rates in the spring, probably at either the April or May board meetings in Council Bluffs.
Dan Kinney, president of Iowa Western, said the school is in a similar position as other Iowa community colleges, many of which also are facing pressure from falling enrollment.
"Everyone was having to raise tuition some," Kinney said.
Iowa Western does receive proportionally less state support and more local support — tuition income — than the community college system as a whole. Property taxes only account for about 5 percent of overall funding.
Holtz said the college is benefiting from increases in property valuation in southwestern Iowa. He said 2015 was the 12th consecutive year of growth, and fiscal year 2017 may see the college surpass the $10 billion mark for valuation, which helps keep property tax rate increases lower because more revenue is brought in year to year by the same levy.
Enrollment, however, continues to fall, though some forecasts suggest that community colleges across Iowa may see a rebound in a few years. Holtz cautioned that many factors, including high school enrollment as well as nontraditional students' workforce needs and layoffs in local communities, could complicate any such predictions.