JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan — Inflation continues to take a toll on college students with the cost of getting a higher eduction steadily increasing.
The Education Data Initiative estimates the annual cost for tuition at two-year institutions is more than $3,500. Room and board varies between $7,000 to $12,000 a year and estimates annual cost is just shy of $16,000.
Johnson County Community College has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country, but current students say inflation continues to impact them in other ways.
Drake Devine will be transferring to Missouri next semester and currently commutes 45 minutes a day to get to class. Devine says the price of gas is among his biggest expenses.
“Gas has been a big expense of mine, and it was almost at the point that I pay as much as I do in rent,” Devine said.
Monique Fair, a student on an athletic scholarship, says the increase in rent and food hurts her bottom line even though tuition is paid for. Fair is from Salina and says she’s responsible for all her expenses.
“I think it was a shock for me to know how expensive Kansas City was and living here and having to pay bills on my own,” Fair said.
Even students who live at home are feeling the pinch, like Alex Nogueres.
“Gas and food prices and looking to move out is hard because apartment and housing prices are through the roof,” Nogueres said.
Enrollment at JCCC continues to see an upwards trend and faculty believe it's partly due to the current economy.
“Inflation always tends to drive community college enrollment and we tend to be counter cyclical so when when inflation is higher, or the job forecast is lower, we tend to see more folks coming to retool and think about what their next step is,” said Dr. Michael McCloud, vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer at JCCC.
According to the JCCC admissions office, students on average pay a third of the average costs of most Kansas universities.
Fall tuition at JCCC is $97 per credit hour. 2022 Fall tuition at Kansas State is $316 per credit hour and $336 per credit hour at the University of Kansas.
Unlike other universities, JCCC didn’t raise their tuition prices this year due to a variety of community funds and local taxes.
“We're seeing folks saving upwards of $40,000 to $50,000 by attending here for their first two years as opposed to going away,” McCloud said, “Those savings are really becoming a really important part of the message that our students and families in the county are taking with them."
Students at JCCC said they are taking initiative to beat a 40-year inflation high.
Many are living with their parents, others have roommates to split rising costs and have applied for scholarships and grants. Some students have on-campus jobs that help pay for part of their tuition and hold flexible hour, all in an effort to stay afloat and reduce their student debt.
“My mom was like 'college debt, it's the worst thing ever,' she’s 45 and she just paid it off and I don’t want to be the person,” Nogueres said.