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posted: 3/17/2017 5:20 AM

College of DuPage board agrees to keep tuition flat

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College of DuPage officials will keep tuition flat during the next academic year and take other steps to address a projected budget deficit.

Board members at the Glen Ellyn-based community college voted 6-0 Thursday night to keep tuition at $135 per credit hour for in-district students. That amount includes fees.

Illinois students coming from outside the district to attend COD will continue paying $322 per credit hour.

"We understand affordability is critical for our students," COD board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi said. "Through sound financial planning, the college's new leadership has been moving toward a more genuinely balanced budget that allows us to keep tuition flat for the third year in a row."

Tuition and fees will remain the same for the fall, spring 2018 and summer 2018 terms, officials said.

The possibility of increasing tuition was discussed last month when trustees reviewed data showing that COD is facing a projected multimillion-dollar budget shortfall in its next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Factors contributing to the anticipated gap between revenues and expenses include declining enrollment, increasing salary costs and the state's struggles to provide financial support.

Hours before Thursday night's vote, the school's budget committee learned the total budget shortfall for fiscal 2018 is expected to be about $4 million.

But officials also said the school is projected to end the current fiscal year on June 30 with a $7 million surplus. That money can be rolled over to cover the deficit in the 2018 budget.

"I think we can balance our budget without increasing tuition," said Trustee Frank Napolitano, chairman of the budget committee.

The idea of keeping tuition flat was supported by most students who responded to a survey conducted by the school's Student Leadership Council. Faculty members and administrators also backed the proposal.

COD President Ann Rondeau said the school is in a strong financial position.

"It is our duty as this district's community college to open doors and provide an experience for our students that is both affordable and often pivotal in changing their personal and professional lives," Rondeau said in a statement. "I am very pleased with the board's decision. It is through continued vigilance in spending our taxpayer dollars wisely that the bottom line will result in benefits for our students."

The operating budget for fiscal 2018 doesn't need to be approved until the end of June. But because fall registration starts next month, trustees had to set tuition rates for that semester.

Despite Thursday night's decision, Napolitano said the board needs to be open to the idea of increasing tuition sometime in the future.

"I think we'll be fine one more year. Maybe we'll be fine two more years," Napolitano said. "But at some point -- if the state doesn't get its house in order -- we may have to consider it."

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