Waubonsee hopefuls differ on school's tuition policy

Posted3/13/2015 5:30 AM

Three candidates for the Waubonsee Community College board disagreed about increasing tuition for students during a candidate forum Wednesday night in Sugar Grove.

Emmett Bonfield said he would have a hard time voting for a tuition increase. Bonfield said instead of increasing tuition, the board should consider reducing administrative salaries and the number of administrators. "My focus would be on the administration organization, focusing in the effectiveness of each member, looking to combine tasks and possible personnel savings," he said.


Bonfield said raising tuition hurts students, as it can lead them to have to borrow more money. Student loan debt, he said, is preventing people from being able to buy houses.

Jimmie Delgado noted that he attended the college "because it was close to home and affordable."

But costs are continually increasing, he said, and it isn't fair to put the burden of the increases entirely on the district's taxpayers.

"To have a knee-jerk reaction and say 'We are not going to raise prices' just for the sake of not raising prices, how are we going to provide" educational opportunities, Delgado said. "We know that there are things that are rising faster than 1.6 percent (the cost of inflation)," Delgado said. "I think it is better suited we charge the users, not the district taxpayers who have resided here since the 1960s."

Incumbent trustee Rebecca Oliver said uncertainty about state financing has led the board to increase tuition annually for several years. It also has to honor the terms of a union contract with its faculty, she said, responding to Bonfield's comments about examining personnel costs. The board currently aims to have the student portion account for about 30 percent of the operating cost, she said.

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They also were asked their opinion of President Barack Obama's proposal to offer free community college education.

Oliver said she would support it only if it were offered to responsible and eligible students, in a fiscally responsible way that wouldn't burden taxpayers or the schools.

"To just say 'Let's do it' is so simple to do. But financially you have to have the infrastructure, the framework, the groundwork laid so that you can provide that," she said.

"I thank that is an extremely bad idea," Bonfield said. "You don't value something that you get for nothing."

And Delgado said he might favor something like forgivable loans, to hold students accountable. "Educated people make better choices, and are better suited to run government and businesses," he said. "If executed correctly, it is an investment in a better community, a better environment."

Four people are running for two, 6-year terms on the Waubonsee board; candidate Patrick Kelsey did not attend the forum, which was sponsored by the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and the Elburn Herald. Candidates for uncontested races for the Sugar Grove Park District, library and village boards and also introduced themselves but were not questioned. The candidates for the Kaneland school board also participated.

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