Students hang out in one of College of Dupage's many common areas on Tuesday, February 5, 2013. Unlike many community colleges in the area C.O.D.'s enrollement is up. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:22AM
In the face of dwindling aid from the state and limitations on raising property taxes, College of DuPage’s Board of Trustees voted six to two Thursday night to increase tuition by $4 per credit hour beginning in the fall.
Students who live in College of DuPage District 502 will pay $140 per credit hour under the new rates, while out-of-district students will pay $327.
Trustee Joe Wozniak joined Student Trustee Olivia Martin in turning thumbs down on an increase that would put a full-time student’s annual cost to attend COD at about $5,000, including books and fees.
“I’m a COD graduate,” Wozniak said after the vote. “I know what it’s like to work while you’re going to school and try to pay tuition.”
COD President Robert Breuder stated the need for an incremental approach to keeping the college’s financial house in order, and pointed out that recent increases at other Illinois community colleges showed that some that had put off increases ended up having to hike tuition by as much as $10 per credit hour in one year.
He also said that COD employees will get a 3.55 percent raise and are scheduled to get more than a 4 percent hike next year.
“It’s got to be made up somewhere,” he said.
While Illinois community colleges are, in theory, funded from three sources — tuition and fees, property taxes and state revenue — the reality is somewhat different. Property taxes are limited by the Illinois tax cap, meaning increases are limited to 5 percent, or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. The projected CPI for fiscal year 2014 is 1.7 percent.
In addition to the tax cap, the district-wide equalized assessed value of property is projected to drop 6 percent, so property tax revenues are only expected to increase $1.4 million.
As for the state, a legislative agreement dating to 2003 says that COD should receive about $55 million from the state of Illinois in 2013. But actual money received from the state so far in 2013 is only $3.1 million, and the college is only estimating another $1 million from the state to be forthcoming this year.
The college’s position is that the same $4.1 million should reasonably be expected from the state in 2014.
Breuder also made the point that COD’s increasing enrollment, especially from out-of-district students, showed that the market could bear higher tuition.
But English professor Bob Hazard took issue with the raise in tuition cost.
“The measure by which we price our product should not be what the market will bear,” he said. “The college is in great shape financially ... we should not be adding to the financial burden of our students.”
But Breuder pointed out that the faculty’s opening demand in the last round of contract negotiations was for a raise “north of 10 percent.”
Hazard responded, “That’s a negotiation.”
Wozniak reminded his colleagues that he was against any raise for faculty.
“We wouldn’t have to consider a tuition increase (without the salary increase),” he said.
But Breuder responded that the college still had an obligation to take care of the people that it employed.
Breuder warned that looking to the state to hold up its end of the financial burden was likely a lost cause.
“They can’t even resolve pension reform,” he said.
Trustee Dianne McGuire said that it made sense to increase tuition gradually.
“It’s still a bargain,” she said.