As tuition hikes go, 3 percent isn't much. But at a time when, for many in the private sector at least, getting a raise is but a distant memory, every bit counts. Three percent may not be 10 percent, but it's not insignificant.
Northwestern Michigan College trustees approved a 3 percent increase for in-district tuition rates this week, and 4 percent for out-of-district students.
In-district students will now pay $2.50 more per contact hour, or $84.60. Out-of-district students will pay $6.50 more per contact hour, or $165.90; and out-of-state students will pay $8.20 more per contact hour, or $212.45.
In-district means Grand Traverse County, where property owners last year paid a 2.94-mill annual levy that amounts to $294 per year on a house with a market value of $200,000 and a taxable value of $100,000.
So in-district students — or their parents or landlords — are already paying to support the college. In 2011 about 55 percent of NMC students were in-district. Students from Antrim, Kalkaska, Leelanau or Benzie counties, though considered within the college's service area, are out-of-district students and pay a little less than twice as much as in-district students.
If the average contact hour load (what used to be called credit load) is still about 15 credits, in-district students next year will pay almost $1,300 in the fall for tuition, $37.50 more than last fall; fees are more. Out-of-district students will pay more, about $2,500, or $97.50 more.
All of this is a lot less than Michigan's four-year colleges, particularly when you throw in room and board and usually higher fees. And NMC is trimming costs. Next year's budget eliminates 27 positions, most of them through retirement or attrition; some new positions requested by departments were not approved.
But the college is also offering pay raises that average out to 2.8 percent. For many in the private sector — including many Grand Traverse residents who are paying NMC's millage — that would be a windfall.
It's all relative, but 3 percent is real money.