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Kirkwood tuition up 7.5% this fall

Kirkwood’s $14 increase highest among community colleges in Iowa

An aerial view of the Kirkwood Community College campus.

IOWA CITY — Tuition rates for Kirkwood Community College students this fall are 7.5 percent above last fall — marking the steepest increase among community colleges in the state, according to college documents.

Just over a week before classes are scheduled to resume for the fall semester on Aug. 22, Kirkwood’s Board of Trustees on Thursday will consider approving an operating budget for the upcoming year that includes the in-state increase of $14 per semester credit hour — from $186 to $200.

Its out-of-state tuition rate per semester credit hour is up $19 from $249 to $268 — about 7.6 percent. Those rates bring the cost of a three-credit course at Kirkwood this fall to $600 for in-state students and $804 for out-of-state students.

The estimated cost of a full course load of 15 credit hours for an academic year is $6,000 for in-state students and $8,040 for out-of-state students.

In-state students at Kirkwood paid $4,860 for a full course load five years ago.

Kirkwood’s rate hike is the steepest among Iowa’s 15 community colleges, with Northwest Iowa Community College imposing the second highest dollar increase of $11 — amounting to a 5.2 percent increase, which also comes in as the second biggest percentage jump behind Kirkwood.

“The substantial increase is due to the high inflationary period that we are in,” Kirkwood Chief Financial Officer Jim Choate told The Gazette.

Looking at tuition alone, Kirkwood’s in-state rate ties for third highest in the state. Because Kirkwood doesn’t impose fees, however, its tuition-plus-fees rate ranks fifth from the lowest.

And officials point out Kirkwood’s one-year tuition hike is below the US inflation rate of 9.06 percent.

Due to the charge increase, with credit hour enrollment projected to remain stable, Kirkwood expects $3.6 million more in tuition revenue for the 2023 budget year, running through June 30, 2023.

Paired with a $1 million increase in state appropriations and other revenue improvements, including Hotel income budgeted to return to pre-pandemic levels, Kirkwood expects to bring in $7.4 million more than in fiscal 2022.

Its expenses, however, are also projected to be up this year due to wage increases; inflation and additional supply needs; and travel returning to pre-pandemic levels to facilitate more in-person training — resulting in a $1.7 million deficit.

Although Kirkwood this year isn’t planning on as much COVID support from the federal government as it got last year, the college also isn’t planning to dole out more than $2 million in bonus payments like it did in fiscal 2022 to “help offset the cost of high inflation and in particular the rising cost of gas for employees to come to work,” according to Choate.

Given market forces, Kirkwood’s unrestricted cash on hand dropped $5.2 million between June 30 and July 31 — bringing it to $42.6 million. It currently has 148 days of cash reserves, down from 166 a month prior, meaning the college has “cash reserves to meet our obligations for four to five months, should we not receive another dollar of cash.”

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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