SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Community colleges are still the most affordable place to get prepared for the workforce, but state budget cuts to higher education in Missouri are leading to tuition hikes in many places.
OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon talks to a reporter on April 20, 2017.
"It's going to take me longer to go through school, because it's going to take me longer to save up the money for it," said Ruben DeLeon, a student at Ozarks Technical Community College.
About a third of students at Ozarks Technical Community College do not qualify for any financial help, and they attend OTC to gain job skills at the lowest possible cost. However, a 10 percent increase from $98 a credit hour to $108 will make an impact.
"I think I paid almost $1,400 last semester just to take classes I'm taking right now. That's a whole month's worth of work for me," DeLeon said.
"We don't have a belt to tighten," said OTC Chancellor Hal Higdon. "We're as lean as we can be."
Higdon believes the University of Missouri's mismanagement of tax dollars, as outlined in a recent state auditor's report, helped justify budget cuts for all of higher education statewide.
Cuts for Missouri State University in Springfield now mean a two percent increase in tuition for students there.
"Frankly there's nobody in the state over the last five years that would say Mizzou was well run, and I think that's going to change," Higdon said.
Higdon hopes the trend of cutting higher ed will reverse as lawmakers recognize the impact a skilled workforce can have on the state's bottom line.
"We get the education to make more money. in the long run we put more money into the economy," De Leon said.
OTC implemented a hiring freeze last fall in an effort to brace for the cuts. They have also eliminated positions and continue to look at the budget to find more potential places to cut, Higdon said.