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Citing Rising Gas Prices, Ala. Two-Year College Chief Forgoes Tuition Hike

MONTGOMERY Ala. — Alabama’s two-year colleges will not raise tuition for the fourth consecutive year, Postsecondary Chancellor Bradley Byrne announced Wednesday.

Byrne’s decision comes despite an anticipated budget cut from the Legislature.

“As tempting as it would be this year to increase tuition, we are not going to do it,” he said.

Byrne said the time is not right for a tuition increase because most students at community and technical colleges are commuters who are struggling with gas prices approaching $4 per gallon and other rising expenses.

Tuition and mandatory fees for 15 credit hours for two semesters at Alabama’s community colleges ranges from $2,700 to $3,060. Some four-year universities in Alabama are charging about twice that amount.

Byrne also announced that he is allowing colleges to switch classes, where appropriate, to four days a week, instead of five, to help students save on gas. Byrne said it’s too early to say how many courses can be converted to four days, and he expects most of the changes in the fall because many schools have already locked in their summer schedules.

The two-year college system’s decision not to raise tuition the three prior years coincided with budget increases from the Legislature, but the 2008-2009 school year will be different.

The Legislature ended its 2008 regular session on Monday night with the Senate failing to pass a state education budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The budget that died in the Senate would have cut the two-year college system by 8 percent from $428 million this year to $394 million next year due to the economic slowdown’s effect on state tax collections.

Gov. Bob Riley plans to call the Legislature into special session soon to reconsider the budget. Byrne said he is hopeful the appropriation won’t fall farther in the special session.

Alabama’s two-year colleges get 48 percent of their money from the state, 23 percent from the federal government, 22 percent from tuition and fees, and the remainder from other sources, Byrne said.

Even though Alabama’s two-year colleges are cheaper than the four-year universities, their tuition is higher than the national community college average of $2,400.

The American Association of Community Colleges said that local funding accounts for 19 percent of community college revenue nationwide, but Byrne said in Alabama, it is less than one-tenth of a percent. Byrne, who was selected as chancellor a year ago, said he wants to pursue local funding and more donations and grants to keep tuition even in the future.

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