Iowa Central considers flat-rate tuition

Proposal would help 73 percent of college’s students

For decades, Iowa Central Community College students have paid tuition based on the number of credit hours they take each semester. That meant the more credit hours they signed up for, the more they paid.

Now, college officials are considering a plan in which students who take between 12 and 18 credit hours would pay a flat tuition rate.

The proposal could shave more than $1,000 off the cost of earning an associate degree, according to college leaders.

As part of the program, students would be issued a Surface Go tablet device which would enable them to access all their textbooks electronically.

If the program is approved by the college’s Board of Directors, Iowa Central would become the first community college in Iowa to offer a flat-rate tuition program.

”We’re trying to find other ways to make education affordable and accessible for students,” college President Dan Kinney said Tuesday evening.

Iowa residents attending the college pay a tuition rate of $183 per credit hour.

That means students taking 12 credit hours in a semester would pay $2,196 in tuition for that semester. But 12 credit hours is kind of a light course load, according to Kinney.

He said someone wanting to earn an associate degree in two years would probably have to take 15 credit hours each semester. For Iowa residents, that equals a tuition cost of $2,745.

And in some programs, students have to take 18 credit hours per semester to earn their degree in two years. That equals a tuition cost of $3,294 for that semester for Iowa residents.

”Sometimes, students can’t afford to take just one more class,” Kinney said.

The flat-rate tuition proposal would address that problem.

Exactly what that tuition rate would be has yet to be determined.

But Stacy Mentzer, the college’ vice president of instruction, said a flat tuition rate would benefit 73 percent of the college’s students.

She said under such a plan, students could save more than $1,000 while earning an associate degree.

Kinney said the plan would make Iowa Central programs more affordable compared to other institutions.

Many four-year colleges and universities have flat tuition packages. No community colleges in Iowa offer one, and apparently there is just one community college in the nation, located in Pennsylvania, that does so, Iowa Central leaders say.

Students in the program would be issued a Surface Go device that would have to be returned to the college. Kinney said 22,000 textbooks can be accessed on the device.

More than 800 students on campus are using Surface Pro devices to some extent.

”It runs almost better than the desktop,” Taylor Thompson, an accounting student from Carroll, told the board Tuesday.

Issuing the devices to the students would put them all on the same level on the first day of class, giving them the same access to materials.

College instructors are still seeing a large number of students coming to class without laptops or tablets.

Mentzer said four years ago about 60 percent of students didn’t have such devices.

”It was a really large number,” she said. ”It surprised us.”

Kinney and the college’s vice presidents and deans are to make another more detailed presentation on the plan to the board next month. The board may take action on it at that time.

”I personally like the concept,” said Mark Crimmins, the board’s president.