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updated: 5/22/2011 7:44 AM

How community colleges are funded

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and Projects Writer

Illinois community college revenue is sort of a mix, funded about equally by local property taxes and student fees, with a bit of state and federal tax dollars mixed in.

Family Taxpayers' Foundation founder Jack Roeser, of Barrington, uses the word "hybrid," as compared to public K-12 schools throughout the suburbs that are funded almost exclusively by taxpayer dollars _ local property taxes, plus state and federal funding.

Looking at Harper College's annual budgets in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, for example, taxpayer dollars from residents in Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry County made up more than $33 million or roughly 40 percent of the school's budget each year.

The owner of a $350,000 house in Arlington Heights, for instance, would pay roughly $300 a year to the institution, Wheeling Township Assessor Jerry Sadler calculates.

Tuition and fees made up $39 million -- 48 percent -- of Harper's budget in 2010. Following an $8.50 per credit hour tuition rate hike, they made up $45 million -- or just shy of 55 percent -- of the school's budget this fiscal year.

Because of Illinois' widening budget gap, state funds to community colleges have dipped significantly over recent years, dropping from 9 percent of all funds in 2010 to just 4.2 percent in 2011.

Harper spokesman Phil Burdick said that for fiscal year 2012, which begins in July, Harper is expecting an even further drop in funding. Still, the community college considers itself lucky compared to public K-12 districts, which are more heavily dependent on state funds.

"We have hired faculty for next year, but only by using funds from retiring faculty positions," Burdick said in an email. "Our president, Dr. Ender, has frozen the number of staff (noninstructional) positions for the second year in a row, despite our enrollment continuing to increase (1 percent over the past three years.) We'll continue trying to do more with less on the administrative side. ... At the end of the day, we consider ourselves relatively fortunate compared to what many state agencies are going through."

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