LBCC to see fall tuition increase

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local

Faced with an expected shortfall in state funding, Linn-Benton Community College officials announced last week that students will likely experience a nearly 7% tuition increase in the fall, and that the college will cut two academic programs and eliminate some library positions.

The college announced it will eliminate two academic programs, criminal justice and computer science, at the end of the 2023-24 academic year as part of budget cuts. Current students enrolled in those programs will have the opportunity to finish their degrees over the next two years.

The Adult Basic Skills (ABS) program will be redesigned to operate with less budget by moving the program, grant management and support services to additional division staff. Six open positions across the college will not be filled but be reevaluated this fall, the college said in a statement.

In addition, three full-librarian positions will be eliminated in June. LBCC President Lisa Avery said the library will remain open and fully operational, with the library manager remaining, along with front-desk staff.

“This has been a very difficult time for the college and is especially challenging for those who are directly affected by these changes,” she said. “Despite the challenging climate, I know LBCC will continue to fulfill our mission of economic empowerment for our students and our communities.”

LBCC Board of Education members approved a 6.52% increase Wednesday, March 15. According to Avery, they will revisit the tuition increase later this year if more money comes from the state.

Prior to the hike, per-credit tuition, including fees, was $141.38. If nothing changes, students will pay $150.74 per credit in the fall.

Normally, Avery said, board members prefer to have “small” tuition increases, though tuition shot up 18% “during the recession, one year.”

“That’s terrible to do to people,” she said, adding that a normal increase is about 4%.

Students have indicated that they prefer a small tuition increase to none, because they are afraid of “bigger increases,” she said.

Avery said she had a “series of really good meetings” earlier this month with legislators who represent the areas LBCC serves.

Reps. Jami Cate, R-Lebanon, and Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, both attended LBCC, she noted, as did Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

“They value us, but they have limited resources,” Avery said. “My pitch to them is that we’re a good investment. We provide a low-cost education and we really help get people to work.”

Though three full-time librarian jobs will be cut, the LBCC faculty directory currently lists a staff of 20 librarians and instructional assistants. Students will still have access to materials and research support, and continue to have dedicated study space in the library despite the full-time faculty reductions, she said.

“These are non-instructional faculty,” Avery said. “We’re just trying to protect the instructional faculty as much as we can. It’s a difficult choice. We have our library manager and she will be our main library voice now.”

Avery said the two degree programs to be eliminated have been “lower-enrolled” in recent years, with changes in the job market and other factors.

“In criminal justice, you no longer need a degree to become an officer,” she said. “That job market is really compelling to prospective students.”

Degrees and certificates now offered in criminal justice are:

♦ Criminal Justice, Associate of Applied Science;

♦ Juvenile Corrections, One-Year Certificate; and

♦ Justice emphasis for Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT) will no longer be an option.

Degrees and certificates offered in Computer Science are:

♦ Computer Science: Applied Computer Science option, Associate of Science;

♦ Computer Science: Computer Systems option, Associate of Science;

♦ Network and Systems Administration, Associate of Applied Science;

♦ Network and Systems Administration: Cybersecurity option, Associate of Applied Science;

♦ Systems Administration Certificate; and

♦ Computer Science emphasis for AAOT will no longer be an option.

The online availability of computer education and training have reduced demand for LBCC’s program, Avery said, noting that both Land and Chemeketa colleges will continue to offer the major.

The president said the college is looking for what will best serve the community’s needs and “keep our doors open.”

“We’ll focus on what people can’t get anywhere else,” Avery said.

“You can’t get nursing, or dental assisting, or machining online. The OSU transfer is still something we’ll focus on. It’s what can’t be duplicated anywhere else.”

Referencing the college’s recent decision to close its Sweet Home branch, the president emphasized that cuts “are not just in Sweet Home; they’re also in Albany.

“We’re trying to really make sure that we get smaller but stay sustainable and open for our communities,” she said. “That’s the goal of the board, what they’ve charged me to do.”

She said one board member at the March 15 meeting mentioned the importance of making sure that “the college stays for many more generations.

“That’s a challenge right now because colleges are in a lot of flux,” Avery said.