Clackamas President Tim Cook painted a grim financial picture of the college in his State of the College Address last month and suggested the school may need to raise tuition to help close a projected $7 million budget gap.
Currently, Clackamas Community College has the second-lowest average tuition and fees of all 17 community colleges in the state, Cook said, with Tillamook Bay Community College being the lowest. The per-credit tuition price of $103 is the sixth lowest in the state, according to the state's 2019-20 fall tuition summary.
"I have to say this lower tuition comes at a cost," Cook said. "It means we may not have adequate funds to hire the positions we need to serve students. That includes faculty; it includes support staff. It also makes it difficult to start new programs and be responsive and add additional classes when we need to.
"So, we need to have some difficult discussions as we move forward on our tuition and our model about how we offer these services," he said.
Ninety-eight percent of funding for the college comes from three sources: the state, property taxes and tuition/fees.
Cook said in the last 10 years, funds from the latter two have increased by about 7 percent.
As for state funding, that amount has increased in number of dollars, with $641 million allocated to community colleges this biennium; but community colleges' share of the overall budget has decreased, Cook said, from 4.1 percent of all revenues 20 years ago to 3 percent now.
"So, it's pretty clear math," Cook said. "If this continues, if we continue to get less funding from the state, we've got choices. We either raise tuition, or we reduce programs and services in order to balance our budget. Those are our options that we have to get that done."
Cook said the college has been operating at a deficit for the last three years and faces a larger deficit in coming years.
"With continued impacts from the Public Employee Retirement System, increased construction costs related to the completion of our bond projects, cost-of-living increases to our association contracts, and declining student enrollment, over the next biennium, we're looking at a $7 million budget gap," Cook said.
To help close the gap, the college is in the middle of a budget reduction process in attempt to trim costs by 5 percent. Additionally, Cook said leaders have asked the entire college community to generate ideas on how to create new revenue and pinpoint areas of potential savings.
College Vice President Alissa Mahar is scheduled to present a potential $8 per-credit tuition increase, taking the price up to $111 per credit, at CCC's Board of Education meeting Feb. 12.
This story has been updated.
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