MONTGOMERY, Ala., June 19, 2007 -- The chancellor of the two-year college system in Alabama, Bradley Byrne, announced Tuesday the system will not be raising tuition or fees for the coming 2007-2008 academic year.
Byrne said it has been three years since the last increase of 2.5 percent and this will mark the fourth academic year in a row that the system has had the same set of tuition and fees. "We do have some of our students that are in dorms, but most aren't, so the vast majority of their costs are going to be in tuition and fees. There may be some book costs and supply costs on top of that, but the vast majority of their costs are in tuition and fees."
"We have enough money to run our system, we're not flush don't get me wrong, but we have enough money to run our system and provide the quality of academics and technical training and job training that we need for the state without having to raise tuition on anybody," says the chancellor.
For students at most colleges tuition and fees will run about $90 per credit hour, about $2,700 for the academic year, based on two 15-hour semesters.
Byrne says the breakdown of the $90 cost is tuition, $71, the facility renewal fee of $9, the technology fee of $9, and then a special reserve fee of $1. Special building fees, depending on the school, are on top of that. The special building fee runs from a low of $3 per credit hour at Reid State to $12 per credit hour at Jefferson State and the fee is tied to some capital bond indebtedness needs that have been set in the past.
"The Legislature was once again very generous to our system and we are very grateful for that. And we're particularly grateful to the people of the state of Alabama because it's their dollars that were appropriated by the Legislature to go to our system."
System wide Byrne says there was a 13.59% increase overall in appropriations from the Legislature. "That's a total of $468,768 million and that's compared to $412,698 for the last fiscal year. So when you get a 13.5% increase overall from the Legislature, even though we've got an increased demand for our services, we still think it's appropriate for us to leave our tuition and fees level and we are." Byrne added that the special building fees, which some schools have, aren't being adjusted this year either.
He says the two-year college system is a good value for the money. "Based upon the statistics we have, what we know is the tuition and fees at the average Alabama two-year college is about 51% of the tuition and fees at the average Alabama four-year college. Now obviously there are some differences depending upon exactly what you're taking at a given college, but that's the average. And that's the way it should be. Alabama's two-year colleges should be more affordable and provide better access for the average Alabamian."
Byrne says he felt it was important to make the announcement at this time "because people are making their plans for the upcoming academic year and there may be some financial decisions they have to make before they make the decision about where they go to school."
He says Alabama's two-year college tuition and fees have been a "little higher than some of our sister states. That's one reason why I think I'd like to leave things at this level so that we can begin to see our tuition come more in line with our sister Southern states."
"What we're trying to do in the two-year college system in Alabama is to deliver quality services to people in a cost effective fashion. I'm not saying the four-year colleges aren't trying to do that, but that's a major focus for us. And, if you go on the average two-year college campus, you'll find we have fairly modest facilities and you'll find that we do things in a little bit lower tech, lower scale basis. But, what you'll also find in many of the classrooms in our system is that the quality of instruction that students are getting is pretty high.
We're proud of the fact that a student starting off as a freshman or going on to their sophomore year in the vast majority of our two-year colleges are getting very individualized instruction as opposed to what they might get, based on what their needs are, at a four-year college or university. So we try to be cost effective. I think that's the nature of what a two-year college should be and we're trying to be affordable, because affordability is a big issue for people in a state like Alabama."
"We have an affirmative obligation to be accessible and affordable to the people of this state. I think that's part of our role as a public institution," says Byrne.
Byrne says the system is facing an "almost unprecedented" situation. "We have this tremendous demand on our services for for-credit and not-for-credit job training because of what's happening economically in the state, which is a wonderful thing. But as our services have moved up, the costs have also moved up. I mean a technical education, whether it's for credit or not, is expensive."
The head man of the two-year system says in a technical education the classes "tend to be smaller" and as you would expect "their equipment costs are much greater..."You would normally think under those circumstances we'd have to raise tuition. But because of the more generous appropriations we've had from the Legislature, we're not doing that."
Byrne says the system served more than 280,000 people in many different ways last year. According to Byrne, "Some of the most important work we do is not for credit. We may be training somebody in a 6-to-8 week short certificate course that's exactly what they need to get the job training they need to get their job. While it might not be for credit, it's every bit as important as the for-credit courses we offer."
The chancellor says the system serves a wide variety of students running the gamut from part-time to full-time students, and from somebody that's going through one of the system's job training programs to somebody in an adult education program. "Or, it may be somebody in the community that just wanted to sharpen their skills in an area in which they don't feel like they have the sharpest skills. It may not be for credit but it's something that enhances the quality of their life."
Byrne says he can't guarantee the system will "be able to hold this same level next academic year, but every year we're going to take a look at it and every year we're going to try to make a decision to keep our tuition and fees as low as we possibly can. Now you can't project from one fiscal year to the next. You know we could get cut next year, I don't think so, but we could get cut next year and we may find ourselves in a situation where we may have to raise tuition and fees next year. "
But for now Byrne's happy he can hold the tuition and fees steady for the fourth academic year in a row. "That' s pretty significant and we thought it was the sort of thing we ought to let the public know," says the man who if he could have his way would offer full scholarships to anybody that wanted to go to school in the two-year system. "But that's not realistic."