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Harper College budget adjusts spending with enrollment dip

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  • Harper College has prepared a balanced budget for fiscal year 2015 that calls for a slight decrease in the education fund and a small bump in tuition.

      Harper College has prepared a balanced budget for fiscal year 2015 that calls for a slight decrease in the education fund and a small bump in tuition.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, November 2011


Harper College officials have prepared a 2015 balanced budget that reflects a dip in enrollment and small tuition increase.

The board of trustees is expected to approve the proposed spending plan in August.

"We're living within our means, and I think we're providing a great educational program and services at affordable prices," said Ron Ally, the college's executive vice president of financial and administrative services.

The education fund, which bankrolls faculty salaries, supplies and equipment, is slated to fall roughly .8 percent to $88.3 million. The modest decrease stems in part from enrollment dropping in the last school year, officials say.

The number of students taking credit courses totaled 25,630, a 3.2 percent decrease from the 2012-13 school year. The figures follow a trend of declining enrollment in community colleges across the state as the economy and job outlook improve, officials say. Harper also points to a smaller number of high school seniors in the communities it serves.

Meanwhile, Harper's fund for campus maintenance, utilities and repairs is projected to climb about 2.4 percent to $18.3 million. Officials budgeted slightly more for utilities in case of extreme weather like last winter's brutal cold.

On the revenue side, tuition and fees make up nearly half -- 48.5 percent -- of the Palatine-based community college's proceeds in the education fund.

In February, the board approved a tuition hike, the second since the panel embraced a policy in 2012 that ties increases to inflation. Effective this summer, a full-time student taking 30 credit hours pays an extra $52.50 per year for a total of $3,787.50.

Property taxes account for 42.7 percent of the education fund's revenues.

Under the original model shaping Illinois community colleges, state funding was supposed to account for one-third of the per-capita costs of running the school. Harper anticipates the state kicking in $7 million in the 2015 fiscal year, or just 6.3 percent of the college's revenues.

"Despite the uncertainty with state revenues, we are pleased to present a budget that honors the board's commitment to fiscal responsibility," Harper President Ken Ender said in a statement. "With today's difficult job market, it's critical that Harper provides programs that will help workers learn new skills and retrain for new careers as well as provide an affordable alternative to soaring tuition at traditional four-year universities."

Harper will host a public hearing on the tentative budget at 6 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Wojcik Conference Center on the Palatine campus, 1200 Algonquin Road.

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