Nearly half of Iowa community colleges expect to spend more than they receive

Collective deficit comes after earlier hike in pandemic aid

Nearly half of Iowa community colleges expect to spend more than they receive

An aerial view of the Kirkwood Community College campus.

Iowa’s 15 community colleges collectively forecast a $2.3 million drop in total resources for the next fiscal year — contributing to a projected deficit of $36.8 million — propelled largely by previous increases in the federal funding due to COVID-19 and more planned spending for facilities and programs.

The State Board of Education on Thursday reviewed each community college’s “best estimate” of projected revenue and expenses for the 2023 budget year, which begins July 1, including state appropriations, tuition and fees. tuition and salary and benefit costs.

Although lawmakers have yet to agree on a set of higher education appropriations for fiscal year 2023, the planned combined budget for community colleges includes a $5.8 million increase in student aid. state, raising the total from $216.8 million to $222.6 million.

This projected increase may be conservative, as it is less than the general aid increase of $6.5 million that the Iowa House proposed for community colleges in its original appropriations bill for the education.

Community college revenue from student tuition and tuition is also expected to rise next year — largely due to higher rates, which rose across the board in the fall even as registrations have fallen sharply during the pandemic.

Community colleges in Iowa have seen some recovery in enrollment, including Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, which in fall 2021 saw a 2.7% increase in enrollment after a massive 13.4% drop. in fall 2020.

But Kirkwood is among seven community colleges that are eyeing a budget shortfall next year — predicting a $20.8 million drop in total resources, mostly due to big increases in federal aid in budget years 2021 and 2022.

Even though it plans to spend $12.5 million less next year — cutting administrative costs — Kirkwood’s deficit is expected to reach nearly $10.8 million, the largest in the state. The loss will reduce the college’s fund balance — which serves as a “cushion for future unforeseen revenue declines or increased one-time expenses” — to $110.6 million, down 11% from 2021.

Although eight colleges are expecting a surplus next year, when combined, the campuses are looking at a total deficit of $36.8 million, bringing the collective fund balance cushion down to $631.1 million. dollars, down 8% from fiscal 2021.

Of the 15 community colleges in Iowa, eight forecast more revenue and seven expect to generate less next year.

Kirkwood Community College President Lori Sundberg speaks January 24 about the funding that will be used to enable more students to receive an education locally during a news conference at the Kirkwood Community College Auto Technology Building in Cedar Rapids. The City of Cedar Rapids is dedicating a portion of its federal pandemic aid to the workforce program. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Speaking to the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club on Thursday, Kirkwood President Lori Sundberg highlighted her campus’ efforts to attract students and meet their needs, as well as the state’s need to , among other things, keeping graduates in the local workforce.

“We estimate that between 82% and 83% of our vocational and technical graduates stay in our district and 90% stay in Iowa,” she said.

Her campus offers more than $3 million in scholarships to students each year, she said. And — although some areas of enrollment are down, including a 60% drop in the number of international students — Sundberg pointed out that concurrent enrollment, when high school students are also taking classes at community colleges, is strong. .

“If your student isn’t simultaneously enrolled, you’re missing out,” she said. “In Iowa, it’s free. In Illinois, where I come from, that was not the case. Students and parents had to pay school fees. … This is one of Iowa’s best opportunities.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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