Waubonsee contemplates increasing tuition
Students taking credit classes at Waubonsee Community College will likely pay about 7 percent more next school year.
They may find themselves picking up a larger share of the costs in the future, as college officials' fears grow about possible declines in state funding. Trustees indicated Tuesday they don't want to cut programs or lay off workers yet, and they don't want to ask property taxpayers to pick up more of the bill.
"I don't think anyone here would ever have imagined our state would be failing so stupendously," Trustee Rebecca Oliver said, at the board's annual strategic planning meeting.
" ... If they (students) have to take ownership (of the costs) to a bit higher level, don't we all wish we could give our children everything for nothing, but that doesn't get to be."
Students who live in the district pay $110 per credit hour. That would rise to $118 in the fall. The $8-per-hour student fee would not increase.
Waubonsee has had a guideline, for more than eight years, that calls for the costs of the college to be born equally by the state, the district's property taxpayers, and its students. College President Christine Sobek said other community colleges in Illinois have similar guidelines.
But according to last year's annual financial report, taxpayers are footing about 58 percent of the Waubonsee bill, students about 32 percent, and the state approximately 8 percent, said David Quillen, executive vice president of finance and operations.
The state has not increased its credit-hour grant to the college in several years, keeping it at $5 million when it really should be sending $15 million, he said. And because of the lack of a state budget, the state hasn't even paid that grant this year -- nor passed along $1.075 million in federal money due to the college for adult education, vocational programs and the Small Business Development Center.
"With all due respect, the 33 percent guideline is built on a funding theory that is not functional or practical," Quillen said.
Trustee Jim Michels worried that raising the price would cause fewer students to enroll, especially some Hispanic students who might have lower income.
Plus the college has invested a lot of money in hiring workers and building facilities, he said.
"We want to keep the hopper full with students coming in to take classes," Michels said.
Quillen said the tuition would be lower or the about the same as other suburban community colleges, including Elgin Community College, College of DuPage, Triton College in River Grove, College of Lake County and Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. Many of them have a significant population of Hispanic students, Sobek said.
Quillen said the college does not plan to charge variable tuition. Some colleges, including COD, charge more for certain degree or certificate programs, such as nursing, he said. And other colleges don't have a universal fee, charging separate fees for things such as graduation, enrollment, insurance and online class access.
The trustees will vote on the tuition increase Feb. 17.
"We are sympathetic to the students, but we also have to be honest (about the costs)," Quillen said.