Tuition at Clark not expected to increase

Lawmakers, college officials say dollars must be found elsewhere

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After several years of steep tuition hikes, Clark College students shouldn't expect to pay any more, according to local legislators.

"We've already hit higher [education] with higher tuition these last two years," Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said. "We're going to have to find the funds some other way and not on the backs of college students."

Washington state legislators met with Clark College administrators and student leaders during an annual Legislative Reception held Jan. 27. The discussion focused primarily on state funding for the college.

Students have seen back-to-back 13 percent tuition hikes the last two years, bringing the average tuition cost to $4,000 per year. That's up 55 percent from $2,586 in the 2006-2007 school year.

In 2008-09, Clark College received about 63 percent of its funding from the state. In the current fiscal year, funding from the state makes up 38 percent of the college's budget, Karen Wynkoop, director of business services at Clark College, said.

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges decides tuition rates based on the amount of state funding available each fiscal school year, Wynkoop said.

"I don't think [tuition] will go up," Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, said. "I think the people understand we need to freeze tuition where it is. We need to add more tuition assistance to the mix, for everybody."

Several college administrators, including President Bob Knight, Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden and members of the college's Board of Trustees attended the dinner reception.

Clark College officials said tuition will not increase by large margins, as it did the past few years, if at all.

"We've seen such significant increases over the last couple of years that we really can't afford to raise it much more because students can't afford to take on the debt to stay in school," Belden said.

During the annual Stage of the College Address on Jan. 17, Knight stressed that Clark College needs more funding and the continued decrease in the state's financial support is troubling.

Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, said making students pay more is an easy escape from solving the problem.

"We should put greater funds into the community colleges," Harris said. "I believe it tends to be a better bang for our dollar."

Tuition has been increasing for several years due to cuts to state funding.

Shanda Diehl, associate vice president of planning and Eeffectiveness, said she recently attended a meeting with the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges with three state legislators to discuss state funding for community colleges.

Diehl said legislators don't know where money for funding will come from or what the state budget will look like.

"We're not seeing changes at the state level yet," Belden said.

Students can also take part in helping decrease tuition rates by calling for legislative action.

Belden said it's a challenge to get students more involved. "I want student voices to be heard better than they are now," he said.

Editor's note: This story was written by reporters for The Independent, Clark College's campus newspaper, as part of a collaboration with The Columbian called Voices From Clark College. It is also being published today in The Independent.