Oakton officials blame 10.8 percent tuition hike on state

 
 
Updated 3/16/2016 6:14 PM
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Oakton Community College is raising tuition 10.8 percent this year and might raise it by almost as much next year, depending on the status of state budget negotiations, officials said.

The Des Plaines-based school is one of several state community colleges in recent weeks to announce tuition increases for the 2016-2017 school year.

Oakton, like other colleges, has received little money from Springfield since July due to the budget stalemate, resulting in a larger-than-expected tuition increase, officials said. The school is also projecting decreased enrollment.

Oakton raised tuition by about 8 percent each of the last two years, with only slight increases of a couple of dollars before that. Oakton's current in-district tuition and fees of $116.25 per credit hour place the school 13th-lowest among the state's 39 community colleges.

"The tuition increase recommendation is a difficult but necessary action," said Oakton President Joianne Smith in a news release. "The college is working to maintain quality and institutional stability while still keeping tuition affordable relative to our peers."

The college's board of trustees Tuesday unanimously approved the tuition increase of $12 per credit hour, from $111.25 to $123.25, effective this summer. The board also authorized an increase not to exceed $13, to $136.25, for the following school year. That number may be re-evaluated depending on the state budget situation, and Oakton's administration is expected to report back to the board with a recommendation this December.

Smith said Oakton wanted to provide a "two-year tuition outlook" so students could adequately plan, though she acknowledged it would be difficult to project revenue over that time.

Other schools recently decided to hike their tuition, including Harper College, by 4.8 percent, to $119.25; and Waubonsee Community College, by 7.3 percent, to $118.

The state owes Oakton more than $7 million going back to last summer. Most of that money is the annual appropriation earmarked to community colleges for general operations, but some of it is also Monetary Award Program grants for student financial aid.

Officials say they were able to absorb those costs, using reserves, while also making $800,000 worth of cuts.

The tuition increase is estimated to bring in $1.3 million in additional revenue.

Oakton this month did receive some of its promised state money in the form of an Illinois Secretary of State grant for adult literacy programs -- although the amount, $6,519, was less than the $1 million received last year.

The college is budgeting that it will receive 5 percent of its revenues next year from the state -- the rest being covered by property taxes and tuition and fees.

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