Implications of the LCC Tuition Hike

Lansing Community College (LCC) has been a cornerstone in the surrounding community since it was established in 1957. In June 2016, the LCC Board of Trustees voted to pass the highest tuition increase in the history of the higher learning center.

Members gave the go-ahead in an approval of a $127 million budget for the 2016-2017 year.

The budget was passed via a four to three vote, with President Brent Knight’s Operation 100% initiative at the forefront of the 12.5 percent tuition hike. This equates to an increase of $11 for in-district students ($99 per credit hour), a $22 increase for in-state students ($198 per billing hour), a $33 increase for out-of-state students ($297 per credit hour) and a $38 increase for international students ($347 per credit hour).

The hiring of 20 new student success coaches and an additional four full-time faculty tutors was the main factor behind the rise, according to Richard Prystowsky, LCC provost. The plan is to have the coaches in place for the new students starting in fall 2017.

“The idea here is that the academic success coaches will be working with cohorts of students very individually, in a very purposeful way to make sure they stay on track, get through semester to semester and get toward their goal of completion,” Prystowsky said.

“We realized that if we couldn’t really effectively monitor and help students stay on track, then we couldn’t get to our goal of completion, which is the Operation 100% goal.”

The initiative is expensive, hence the need for the tuition increase, which wasn’t considered without great thought. LCC has kept its tuition rates as low as it can. With rising operating costs and lowering enrollment numbers, the hike, although large, still allows LCC to be amongst the cheapest community colleges. Oakland Community College has the number one spot for lowest tuition rates, at a steady $88 per billing hour for the 2016-2017 school year.

While inexpensive tuition is a positive, it’s not the only focus the college has, according to Prystowsky.

“The student success is driving everything we’re doing,” he said. “The goal is every student that comes here for a certificate, degree or transfer plan — that every single one of those students will succeed in reaching that goal.”

This mission requires a complete revamping of how advisors, tutors and new success coaches approach the traditional student services put in place on campus. Gone are the days when students need to go from department to department for academic advising, counseling services, testing services, career and employment services as well as other resources.

“Without students having to ask who can help me, we will provide the help up front. That’s really key,” Prystowsky said. “Higher education, traditionally, has been set up so that students have to find help, they have to figure out where the resources are. But those kinds of processes have not been very helpful in getting students to their goals, so the big push here with the coaches is that students won’t have to ask where the resources are, they will have a coach from the beginning who will help them along.”

The college is viewing this goal as both a metric and an attitude in terms of approaching the change.

“That attitude is really important because it helps us understand how we need to deliver our services,” he said. “How we need to streamline processing and how we need to create guided pathways to make students stay on track in their programs.”

Student success doesn’t come solely from one academic advisor, one inspiring teacher or one career workshop, but rather a whole host of components. The new initiative will reflect the idea that success is the result of many factors, which will now be found in one place and served up-front to the students.

“We realize it’s the whole college that has an impact, the whole operation,” Prystowsky said. “It’s what our application procedure is like, what our programs look like, what the faculty engagement with students is, if students need to wait for an appointment to get tutoring help, all of these things.”

While the direct effects of the tuition increase are too hard to measure just yet, and there is no direct correlation to lower enrollment due to the hike, there is a direct relationship between enrollment and employment.

LCC reported 14,851 enrolled students to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System for 2016. Last spring, there were currently 14,921 students enrolled, and the fall 2016 numbers aren’t yet available, according to Devon Bradley LCC’s public relations manager.

“We do know that with community college especially, enrollment often relates to employment. So as more students get jobs, fewer students come to community colleges,” Prystowsky said.

This is clearly evident when it comes to Lansing’s unemployment rate, and lowered enrollment at the heart of the city’s community college. Lansing’s unemployment rate being 3.8 percent compared to Michigan’s 4.6 percent and the national average at 5.0 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When an area has a high rate of its residents with college degree completion, the economy fares better and the job rates are higher. This is the biggest benefit of the tuition increase and the addition of success coaches.

With student success at the heart of the tuition hike, the impact the change can have on the surrounding community, given LCC’s prominent and pertinent location, is also forecast to be positive.

“To the extent that we are a major player in the community, with respect to putting students in the job force and that sort of thing – the more we can help students complete degrees, the more we can help the economy locally,” Prystowsky said.

“Employers talk about the need for educated, trained workforces, so the more we can help students get that training, get that knowledge, get that experience and get the job, the more we can help local businesses and statewide businesses and so on.”

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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