Posted at 1 p.m. April 3, 2017

Tuition cap removal to take effect fall 2018

The Wyoming Community College Commission has cut the tuition cap, also known as the tuition flat spot, starting in the fall of 2018. What, exactly, is the tuition cap, and what does this mean for students?

The tuition cap charges students for 12 credits, and anything beyond 12 credits is free. The commission decided to remove the cap mainly because it wasn’t efficiently getting students to take more credits.

The cap was “mostly put in place for the thought that if a student gets to 12 credits and if the next credits don’t cost anything, then they are more likely to enroll in additional credits that would help them complete their degree in a more expedient time frame,” President Dr. Joe Schaffer said.

The tuition cap only affects full-time students because part-time students, by definition, take less than 12 credits.

“The data that are available to us is suggests that a third of students take more than 12 credits meaning that two-thirds of our students are part time students,” Rose said.

Executive Director of WCCC, Jim Rose, said the tuition cap has been in place since 2005, or before he began working for the commission.

Now the commission and community colleges have begun to see that the tuition cap has “unintended or unforeseen consequences that they really thought it was worth looking at again,” Rose said.

“Students are not deterred from taking a full load if they are intent on trying to move to finish in time,” Rose said.

The reason that full-time was set to 12 credits is because that used to be the national benchmark.

Because an associate degree requires 60 credits, taking 12 credits for four semesters will not let you finish in two years.

The concern was that the tuition cap ended up not being what it was intended for, which was to make students take more credits because they were free.

“Anecdotally it wasn’t necessarily that, but they weren’t as invested in their entire schedule because they had the option of taking a class and dropping it because they weren’t paying for that class,” Rose said.

The commission saw that it wasn’t a demonstration that students were really motivated to take more hours because of that cap.

The commission didn’t want to raise tuition and eliminate the tuition cap in the same year because that would be a higher increase in what a student must pay.

“Overall, if we look at current enrollment from fall 2016 and calculate it out, roughly $2.3 million will be added to the entire system,” Rose said.

Laramie County Community College alone would receive about $300,000.

Rose said that if the cap is removed and the enrollment stays the same, then it will definitely be a positive change for the college.

“That’s an if though because this removal will be an influence in how many credits students choose to take,” Rose said.

The challenge will be that with this additional cost, students may begin to reconsider how many credits they take.

“For every unit you’re taking, you’re paying a bill, so it may incentivize students to be a little more serious about how they’re going about their education,” Rose said.

A few years ago, students in a statistics class at Casper College did a survey with Casper college students about removing the tuition cap.

“A lot of the students said that was not the single most important thing that determines how many credits students take,” Rose said.

It is hard to tell what the effect will be with the removal of the tuition cap, but “time is the enemy,” Rose said. “If students want to finish and move on, they will do what they have to do to finish.”


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