Tuition and fees will climb this fall at College of DuPage as officials work to address a projected gap between revenues and expenses.
Board members at the Glen Ellyn-based community college recently voted to raise the cost of tuition by $4 per credit hour, to a total of $144 for in-district students. That amount includes fees.
Students coming from outside the district will see their cost climb to $331 per credit hour.
"Choosing to increase tuition is not an easy decision and never one taken lightly," COD President Robert Breuder said in a written statement. "However, in generating revenue to pay for the operation of this institution, we are limited by a local tax cap, dwindling state funding and by the economy as a whole."
Historically, the state has been responsible for providing one-third of the revenue for community colleges. Right now, about 3 percent of the money in COD's operating budget comes from the state, officials said.
"There's no question the state is weaning itself off funding public higher education," COD spokesman Joe Moore said.
COD collected roughly $80 million in property taxes for the current fiscal year. The levy for the coming fiscal year is expected to be about $1.4 million more.
Still, the additional property tax revenue isn't going to be enough to make up for shortfalls caused by higher expenses.
COD officials say the rising expenses are due to increased costs for health insurance, utilities and salaries.
Moore said salary and benefits make up about 73 percent of the college's operating budget. That's about $128 million for the current fiscal year.
Still, it took a 4 to 3 vote by the COD board to approve the higher tuition and fees. Trustees Dianne McGuire, Kathy Hamilton and Kim Savage opposed the hike.
"We have a sufficient amount of money in the fund balance," Savage said. "We do not need a tuition increase for next year."
According to Savage, the increase will generate about $2 million in additional revenue. Meanwhile, she said, COD has more than $140 million in the bank.
Savage said the college should have dipped into that fund balance to cover the budget shortfall.
"The students struggle to pay for college, and the taxpayers are struggling," Savage said. "We need to be as prudent as possible with the dollars that we have available."
Of the $4-per-credit-hour increase, $1 will go to tuition and $3 will go to fees.
Officials said one-third of money generated by the higher fees will pay for students to have free access to the fitness center. The rest is for obligated debt service.
The last time COD officials increased tuition and fees was a year ago. In fact, the administration has a policy of adopting annual increases.
"Every year costs, particularly costs for salaries and benefits, go up," Moore said. "We have to meet that."
Breuder said the administration believes incremental tuition increases are easier for students to handle than holding back until a double-digit increase is needed.
"This strategy has worked," Breuder said. "College of DuPage is seeing semester after semester of stellar enrollment at a time when nearly all other community colleges in the state are experiencing flat or drastic declines in enrollment."
COD officials say their school isn't alone when it comes to increasing tuition and fees. They pointed to Oakton Community College, where tuition will go up 16 percent over the next two years.