LCCC hikes tuition, touts study claiming college’s $403M economic impact

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]

NANTICOKE — Luzerne County Community College trustees approved a $45 per-semester tuition hike for full-time students and a new budget Thursday.

But before that, they offered an overview of an economic impact study that calculated the school generates far more than it costs for the county.

Trustees also recognized 61 students for their accomplishments.

The evening began with a packed crowd in the Educational Conference Center dining room. Most were there for the presentation of certificates to students for a wide range of activities, from sports to culinary arts to photography and student government.

But once President Thomas Leary and Board Chairman Brian Gill announced all the awards, the crowd thinned dramatically, leaving most of the room empty.

“Well, that’s a blow to our ego,” Gill quipped with a smile.

Institutional Research and Planning Director Graceann Platukus then gave an overview of the economic impact study, conducted by Idaho-based Emsi. She noted the company uses accepted techniques to measure both economic impact and return on investment of institutions in 30 states, beginning by calculating a “Gross Regional Product” — total income generated less the cost of production.

The study determined Luzerne County had a GRP in 2017 of $14.2 billion, and that LCCC contributed $403.1 million toward that, or 2.8 percent.

Specifically, the report calculated that in 2017 LCCC spent $29.9 million in payroll and benefits for 730 full- and part-time employees, and another $43.1 million on goods and services in day-to-day operations. Yet that $73 million will generate additional income of $403.1 million in Luzerne County, the equivalent of supporting 6,798 jobs, or about one out of every 27 jobs in the county.

The bulk of that $403.1 million comes from improved earnings for LCCC graduates, and from increased productivity at the companies that hire them. The report estimated total economic impact of such changes at $362.8 million.

The study also calculated how much students themselves get from buying an LCCC education, estimating present student costs, including tuition, books, supplies, loan costs and wages lost by going to school rather than working at $73.8 million. Increased lifetime earnings, by comparison, hit $222.8 million.

The report also calculated a return on investment for taxpayers, who provided about $20.2 million in state and local money in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Increased wages for graduates add $98.9 million in tax revenue over the life of the student, and the public saves another $7.5 million in reduced demand for government-funded social services that likely would have been required if the students hadn’t gone to school and boosted their pay, the study estimates.

Tuition, fee hikes

The budget and tuition were among the last items on the agenda. The board voted unanimously to approve a nearly $43 million spending plan for 2018-19, as well as a capital budget of almost $2.3 million

Tuition will increase $45 per semester for full-time students, a 2.4 percent hike. The increase for part-time students will be $3 per credit. For a full-time student taking 12 to 18 credits per semester, that translates into $3,900 for one year. All others will be charged $130 per credit. Tuition doubles for out-of-county residents and triples for out-of state residents.

The general services fee will go from $25 to $28 per credit, and the technology fee from $20 to $23 per credit.

A written media release explaining the changes said LCCC offers reduced tuition for high school students taking its courses: $64 per credit for courses at the college and $40 for courses at the high school. Last year, 1,271 student from 54 schools took advantage of the program.

The release also noted that in fall of 2016, 75 percent of full-time students received some type of financial aid, with 55 percent getting federal PELL grants.

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish