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Hawkeye Community College students to pay 2.8% more next year

Hawkeye Community College students to pay 2.8% more next year

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WATERLOO — Students will pay more to attend Hawkeye Community College next year, but officials are striving to limit cost increases.

Tuition and fees will grow by 2.81%, a smaller increase than during any recent year and the third lowest boost in a decade. The board of trustees set the rates Tuesday, when it also got a first look at the college’s proposed 2020-21 budget.

Trustees approved a $5.50 increase in tuition and fees per credit hour, raising the cost to $201 effective July 1. The $5 increase in tuition brings it to $192 while the $9 in fees includes an additional 50 cents. Students who come from out of state to attend Hawkeye pay $25 more, raising their per-credit tuition to $217.

An in-state student taking 12 credits, a typical full-time load, would pay $2,412 in tuition and fees per term. That’s $66 more than that student would pay this year.

“Community college students are price-sensitive,” President Todd Holcomb told trustees. “We wanted to stay at or below 3%.”

During the five previous years, tuition and fees grew anywhere from 4.55% to 5.64%. The lowest increases over the past 10 years were in 2013-14 at 2.8% and 2014-15 at 2.72%.

Hawkeye and other community colleges have increasingly relied more on what students pay to cover general fund operating costs, with tuition and fees accounting for 50% of those revenues during the most recent fiscal year. State support made up 37% and local property taxes totaled 5% of the revenues.

Trustees usually approve tuition rates in the spring, after certifying the college’s budget. Holcomb, in his first year as president, moved up the tuition approval to get aid packages out sooner with the intent of attracting more students.

Taxes increasing

The college’s budget proposal includes a 5.21% increase in tax collections. A total of $11.91 million in property and utility replacement tax revenues are expected to be collected across Hawkeye’s 10-county service area, $589,633 more than was estimated for the current fiscal year.

“We think it’s a fairly modest increase in the property tax rate,” said Dan Gillen, vice president of administration and finance. “This is calling for a tax rate increase of just under 4 cents.” That brings the rate to nearly $1.16 per $1,000 of taxable value.

A decrease in the state-determined residential rollback lowering the percentage of property used to determine tax payments is minimizing the increase individual homeowners could see on the Hawkeye portion of their bills.

Gillen noted that without the rollback change, the owner of a $100,000 home whose value hasn’t increased would pay $2.21 more. But with the rollback change, the Hawkeye portion of that homeowner’s tax bill would grow 14 cents to $63.78. Hawkeye accounts for about 3% of the total property tax bill.

“None of us like raising taxes,” said board chairman Jay Nardini. “We want to keep it as small as we can.” He noted that holding the line can be difficult, though, when 70% of the budget covers salaries and benefits of staff.

Tax revenues are one source of funding in the $61.17 million budget proposal. Based on the rate increase trustees approved and steady enrollment levels, the budget estimates $19.16 million in tuition. It also shows $17.26 million in all types of state aid.

But officials are still uncertain what all of the college’s revenues – or expenses – will be.

“We have settled a faculty (contract), which gives us a better idea, but we don’t know what our enrollment is going to be,” said Gillen. “We don’t know what the state aid is going to be. One of the assumptions we made was getting the amount we asked for as a community college group.”

Iowa’s 15 community colleges collectively requested an $8 million increase in state aid. For Hawkeye, $14.6 million of the state aid included in the budget proposal reflects its portion of the total request – approximately $540,000 more than it is receiving this year.

On the expense side, the contract with the Hawkeye Professional Educators’ Association includes a salary increase of 2.5% for 2020-21, 2.75% for 2021-22, and 3% for 2022-23.

“That’s the only union contract we have to settle,” said Gillen. Officials still need to determine any salary increases during the coming year for non-bargaining staff.

Trustees set a public hearing on the budget for their next meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 25. They are likely to approve the budget during that meeting, as well.

Photos: Presidential candidates campaign in the area

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Staff Writer

After 18-plus years reporting on local education, I’ve graduated to covering the city of Cedar Falls. Family and church commitments keep me busy outside of work along with lots of biking, rowing and skiing – pretty good for a guy with fake hips.

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