College of DuPage board approves another tuition increase

College of DuPage's top financial officials predicted last spring the board of trustees would have to continue increasing tuition rates to address a "structural budgetary imbalance."

That scenario is now unfolding.

Students will pay $4 more per credit hour starting with the fall semester. That puts the total rate, plus fees, at $144 per credit hour.

Illinois students coming to the Glen Ellyn-based school from outside the community college district will see their tuition bill, including fees, increase from $327 to $347 per credit hour.

COD officials say the school isn't alone when it comes to raising tuition. In a survey of chief financial officers at Illinois community colleges, several have indicated that they also will be bumping up their rates for fiscal year 2024, with increases ranging from $2 to $15 per credit hour.

COD administrators recommended the increase to bring the college's rates more closely in line with tuition at other public two-year colleges. Officials say the increase is also needed to better keep pace with inflation.

"All things considered, we do have some catching up to do if we compare ourselves to our peers," COD Board Chairwoman Maureen Dunne said at a recent special meeting. "And our understanding is also that the other colleges are also going to be increasing their tuition further this year as well, many of them. However, we're really, really sensitive to how this may affect our students. I think none of us want to make a decision that's going to put any student who's struggling in hardship."

As part of their vote last week to increase tuition, trustees directed the administration to build into the college's 2024 fiscal year budget additional emergency funding for students who are experiencing financial hardships and unable to afford higher education.

A year ago, trustees adopted a $2-per-credit-hour increase. The board previously froze tuition levels to help ease the financial burden on students recovering from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

"Our ability to support student success hinges on our ability to cover ongoing operating costs and provide resources to our students and the community," College of DuPage President Brian Caputo said in a written statement. "This increase brings the college closer in alignment with comparable area community colleges and allows the institution to continue its commitment to higher education while addressing rapid inflation and its projected impact on our budget."

COD's tuition will still be $9.46 per credit hour cheaper than the average in-district rate of all 39 schools in the Illinois community college system, officials say. The tuition increase will generate an estimated $2.1 million in additional revenue.

Trustees have reviewed projections showing expenses in the college's general fund outpacing revenues annually over the next five years.

"We can't just be looking at what's going to be our approach to additional revenues. We have to look at our expenses," Trustee Annette Corrigan said.

The board will hold a public hearing before voting on the final budget in June. The 2024 fiscal year begins July 1.

But because fall registration starts this week, trustees had to set tuition rates for the next academic year. The college on Wednesday will open priority registration for students with 30 or more completed credits taken at COD.

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