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Article updated: 2/23/2013 11:18 AM

COD blames higher salaries for tuition increase

By Christopher Placek

It will cost students more this fall to attend classes at the state's largest community college.

The College of DuPage board of trustees voted 6-1 Thursday to increase tuition by $4 per credit hour, to a total of $140 including fees. Administrators say the bump is necessary to cover the cost of salary increases for college employees in the next fiscal year.

That explanation reflects the still deep divisions between administrators and the College of DuPage Faculty Association, months after contentious negotiations over a new contract ended.

During Thursday's board meeting, Faculty Association Vice President Bob Hazard asked the board not to raise tuition while paying a compliment of sorts to an unlikely ally: COD President Robert Breuder.

"We're still in the black because of Dr. Breuder's financial management. With his hand on the wheel we have routinely had surpluses and not deficits," Hazard said. "The college is in great shape financially."

But Breuder argued additional revenue is needed to offset the costs of the 3.55 percent salary increases for all employee groups in fiscal year 2014.

All together, the increases are expected to cost the college $3.6 million. Officials say an expected increase in the property tax levy of $1.4 million still leaves a $2.2 million gap. Raising tuition, they argue, covers it.

"Do you recall when negotiations began what the (faculty) senate started out as their request for salary increases?" Breuder asked Hazard. "North of 9 percent."

"What's a negotiation?" Hazard responded. "What was the budget surplus two years ago?"

Hazard said many faculty members object to the administration's business model for the college.

Breuder also said decreased state funding has forced the college to absorb more costs on its own.

Historically, he said the state has been responsible for providing one-third of community college revenue, while one-third comes from property taxes and one-third from tuition and fees. But so far this year, the state is short by about $4 million.

The last time the state paid its full share, Breuder said, was 1987.

He said COD prefers to incrementally raise tuition each year as opposed to approving larger increases. For instance, Kishwaukee College in Malta is expected to raise tuition by $10 per credit hour.

Trustee Dianne McGuire asked what it would take to prevent tuition increases every year.

Breuder said the state would either have to pays its full portion, or the college would have to stop giving salary increases.

He said he still believes COD is affordable relative to its peers, and particularly state universities.

"I think we're price pointed appropriately for what we're offering. Compare with Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois and we're still the best deal in town, and students know that," he said.

Trustee Joe Wozniak, who said he was opposed to the salary increases during faculty contract negotiations, was the lone vote against the tuition increase.

In an advisory vote, student Trustee Olivia Martin also opposed the tuition increase.

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