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JCCC Keeps Tuition Steady, But Other Kansas Universities Are Waiting On The Legislature

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

There are two college tuition stories in Kansas right now.

The first is a good news story. Johnson County Community College says it will hold the line on tuition. The JCCC Board of Trustees voted last month to maintain the current cost for students. A credit hour is $93 for Johnson County residents and $110 for all other Kansas residents.

“JCCC is a place where every student has the opportunity for success.  By not raising tuition, that opportunity for success is now more achievable for more students,” president Joe Sopcich said in a statement.

JCCC is even throwing in a 2.75 percent average raise for employees, according to online budget documents.

The college touts its budget management. “I’m pleased that because of our careful cost management and the economic strength of Johnson County, we can make our programs a little more affordable for the 2017-2018 school year,” board chair Greg Musil said in a news release.

The second story is about waiting. While JCCC can announce its plans, Kansas Board of Regents universities are on hold until the Kansas Legislature takes action. 

Regents' schools typically present their tuition plans to the board in June, but with no blueprint from lawmakers, budget planners at the six universities have to wait.

Sweating out a budget has become somewhat routine for state universities in Kansas. Last year, university leaders had just finished their tuition presentations to the regents when they heard Gov. Sam Brownback had cut $30 million from higher education. Universities ended up raising tuition on average five percent last year.

So what does JCCC have that the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and other regents' schools don't? A steady funding stream from local property taxes. In fact, 64 percent of the JCCC's budget is paid for by property taxes. JCCC trustees last raised the college's property tax levy for the 2013-2014 school year.

While the mill levy is flat, the value of Johnson County property keeps going up. That means JCCC gets more money (7.5 percent more, according to its budget summary) with the same mill levy.

The next meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents is June 15. A board spokesperson says they expect to have a budget from lawmakers by that time.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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