NWC uses savings, donations to match state contribution on Student Center construction

By RJ Kost

The Student Center construction project at Northwest College may lead people to ask where NWC is getting the money for the building. It’s a good question since our college has lost tuition revenue from decreased enrollment while also experiencing legislative funding cuts three times in the past seven years.
In this article we hope to present a simplified version of how NWC is funded, including specially designated money for capital projects and major maintenance for facilities.
When community colleges were created in Wyoming, the idea was that the costs would be covered from three primary revenue sources, including local tax support from the counties where the colleges are located, funding from the state’s general fund allocation, and the final portion coming from student tuition and fees. Currently at NWC, 16% of the state’s community college funding comes from the county mils, 17% is from student tuition, and 40% is from the state to the general allocation, with 27% received from auxiliary enterprises, grants and the NWC Foundation.
Unlike K-12, the community colleges receive no regular inflation adjustment. They must cover operating expenses such as utilities, transportation, and maintaining a safe and respectable campus. Also included are costs for all programs, instructors, financial staff, and other needed positions. Over time, the college boards have been forced to make very difficult decisions on reductions with respect to running the colleges so they can balance the budget. Plus, they are constantly challenged to find and sustain funding for innovative programs or additional courses.
There are other strings on income. Wyoming statute says community colleges must provide the lowest level of cost to maintain quality education. It limits the colleges from raising tuition unless approved by the Community College Commission with the same tuition rate for all colleges. Another funding challenge is that all Wyoming counties benefit from the colleges, but residents from 15 of them are not assessed any mils for supporting them. A question I would ask is, shouldn’t they help pay?
Finally, the state provides different but specifically designated funding for capital projects and major maintenance. These two areas are not flexible. In other words, you can’t use the funds for anything other than what they have been provided for. Capital projects such as Northwest College’s new Student Center are funded on a matching basis. The state will cover 50% and the college must cover 50%.
NWC is fortunate to be able to address its top facility need with this appropriation. The college’s portion will be paid for by savings generated from carefully managed spending and fundraising support from donors to the NWC Foundation.
Northwest is a very good community college and offers educational opportunities for students in northwest Wyoming as an affordable option so many students can attend. It is essential to keep our college strong and growing.

(R.J. Kost is a member of the Northwest College Foundation Board. He supported approval for the new Student Center as a former State Senator from Park and Big Horn counties.)