Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

May 21, 2013

Editorial: Earnings-based tuition an artificial construction

According to Northwestern Michigan College math, the real value in an NMC education should be measured by what you can make when you walk out the door.

Thus students in the college’s nursing, automotive, and audio-tech programs are going to be whacked by a nearly 32 percent tuition hike next year because they’re expected to make more out of the gate than those taking business classes, for example.

Those business students might want to look at those audio-tech programs instead.

And while you’re at it, ignore those fees you have to pay on top of your tuition. That’s apparently not real money. At a recent board meeting NMC trustee Bill Myers said he worried that individuals may get the wrong idea of how much it costs to go to school there.

In-district students, for instance, pay $84.60 per contact hour in tuition, but fees increase that cost to a much more substantial (and realistic) $118.97 per contact hour, 40 percent more than tuition alone. That’s another $480 per semester based on a 12-credit class load.

This makes no sense. Charging a higher tuition because a student may make more in the real world is an artificial construct that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

A few years ago NMC was offering a few programs that were gushing red ink because they cost the college big bucks to support but NMC was not charging what they cost. They were, in effect, being subsidized by students in lower-cost programs.

The aviation and maritime programs were the biggest offenders even though neither one was part of the college’s primary mission — to provide low-cost post high school education to Grand Traverse County residents.

So NMC began charging what it cost for those programs and made them much more self-sufficient. Today, the maritime and other specialty programs charge significant course fees to cover actual costs and are doing just fine. Those students are not only paying their own way, but they know why. And students in other programs aren’t subsidizing someone else’s education.

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