College of Lake County trustee candidates have staked out positions on student tuition and fee increases, with one of them suggesting a property tax increase may be the best way to bring more money to the school.
Five candidates are vying for two, 6-year board seats at the Grayslake-based community college in Tuesday's election. In the race are incumbents Barbara Oilschlager and John Lumber, along with Darl Drummond, Jeanne Marie Dauray and former board member Philip Carrigan.
All of the candidates addressed the issues in a Daily Herald editorial board group interview and on questionnaires. One of these issues pertained to student tuition and fee hikes.
In March, CLC board members rejected the administration's recommendation to boost tuition starting in the fall semester. Lumber was the lone board member in favor of the hike, while Oilschlager missed the vote but went on record opposing the proposed increase through a statement read by CLC board Chairman Richard Anderson. Under the plan, CLC would have enacted a $3-per-credit-hour hike for in-district tuition and fees, elevating it to $115 beginning with fall classes. Last year, Oilschlager and Lynda Paul were the dissenting trustees in a 5-2 vote in favor of hiking the credit-hour tuition and fees from $109 to $112.
Lumber, elected to a 6-year term in 2007, said most of CLC's expenses are fixed, so it's difficult to find areas to cut. He said a property tax increase may be the fairest way to gain extra revenue, which voters would decide in a referendum.
"We can't continue to simply keep raising tuition," Lumber said. "At some point, we're going to have to find other alternative resources and reallocation, where possible, consolidation where possible. A more efficient organizational structure, where possible. I mean, there are things we can do. But you can't, I think, exclude the idea of, at some point, having to look at the idea of going to the public and saying, 'Look, we haven't asked you for anything like this since 1978. It's not like we're knocking on your door every few years.'"
Oilschlager, a CLC trustee since 1989, said the school cannot continue imposing higher tuition and fees on students. She said one way the college should start looking to balance its budget is through improving operational efficiencies.
"Every time tuition is increased, access to higher education is decreased," she said. "The president (Jerry Weber) made this recommendation to increase tuition at the same time he enjoys a very lucrative quarter of a million dollar-a-year contract."
Carrigan, a CLC trustee from 2005 to 2011 who was not re-elected, said increases in tuition and fees were subject to careful analysis, scrutiny and debate with the administration and fellow elected officials when he was on the board.
"I don't favor tuition increases, but I'm not a 'no,'" Carrigan said.
Drummond, who recently retired after 15 years as CLC's vice president for student development, said her job gave her a deep and abiding concern for educational access and affordable tuition. If elected, she said, she would require administrators to provide evidence of reallocation of available money and other measures to keep tuition increases low.
"Affordable tuition is my highest-priority campaign issue," Drummond said, "because most students are unable to bear the cost of large tuition increases every year. I believe tuition increases should be the last option instead of the first option for generating operational and capital funds."
Dauray, a grass-roots organizer for various issues, said tuition and fees are an issue with many academic institutions. She said enrollment growth or creation of other revenue streams could help stem a future need for price hikes.
"I believe the best solutions are often creative ones, though," said Dauray, whose husband is a CLC part-time instructor. "We should probably examine what other community colleges have successfully done to close the gap, in addition to taking a close look at all the options the college has in order to ensure the best outcome."