COD Board Approves FY 2016 Tuition Freeze
By Robyn Johnson
The College of DuPage Board of Trustees approved a proposal at its Feb. 19 regular meeting to freeze tuition at $140 per credit hour ($104.15 in-district rate plus $35.85 fees) for Fiscal Year 2016.
“Because we have our fiscal house in order and maintain a very strong financial position, we are able to do this for our students at this time,” said College of DuPage Board Chair Erin Birt. “We are in a unique position to keep our tuition reasonable and open up higher education to many students who might otherwise be unable to attend college due to escalating costs. By maintaining our fiscal health and ensuring our programs are relevant to today’s job market, we keep our focus where it belongs – on student success.”
In September 2014, the COD Board voted to roll back tuition by $4 per credit hour to $140 per credit hour for the spring 2015 semester. The estimated annual cost of this decision was approximately $2.3 million in perpetuity. In addition, in December 2014, the Board voted to freeze the operating property tax levy with the College’s calendar year 2013 levy. This decision had an estimated annual cost of $1.3 million to the College’s revenues in perpetuity.
College of DuPage President Dr. Robert L. Breuder noted this is the first time in the College’s 48-year history that tuition has been reduced for spring term and then subsequently frozen for the entire next fiscal year.
“Recognizing the challenging environment in which we operate, the College has managed its finances in a very conservative manner over the past six years,” Dr. Breuder said. “This has been recognized by ratings agencies and has enabled the College to build reserves that have contributed to our stellar Aaa/AAA ratings with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, respectively.”
Dr. Breuder said it is vital that the College plan as much as possible for the uncertain future of higher education funding when making fiscal decisions such as freezing the FY 2016 tuition and the FY 2014 tax levy.
“A complicating factor in our budget development and five-year outlook is the uncertainty of how the state intends to address its current financial challenges,” Dr. Breuder said. “State leaders have yet to articulate a plan to address Illinois’ deficit and unfunded pension liabilities, which are currently listed at more than $150 billion. Yesterday, Governor Rauner announced that he would seek $387 million in cuts to higher education. Should that become a reality, the potential impact on COD’s Base Operating Grants and other state funding would be a reduction of between $2.6 and $3.9 million or more. This potential loss in revenue when combined with freezing the tax levy ($1.3 million), the spring tuition rollback ($2.3 million) and maintaining the FY 2016 tuition rates ($2.3 million) brings us to lost revenue of nearly $10 million. That represents approximately 5.3 percent of budgeted revenue.
“I have been on public record for several years saying that state government, due to financial trouble will begin to back away from funding higher education,” Dr. Breuder said. “Illinois is one of those states. You can see it in the downward spiral of funding since the 1980s. State governments will most likely keep its obligation to K-12, but will continue to move away from higher education.”
Under the Illinois Community College Charter, funding for higher education should be likened to a pie-chart cut into threes, Dr. Breuder said, split evenly between tuition, property taxes and state allocations. The College has not seen “double digit” income from the state since the early 1980s, however, with this year’s budget created under the notion that COD will receive just $13.1 million (or 7.2 percent) of funding from the state for FY 2015.
“Sound fiscal management and operating this institution like a business these past six years has made this decision to freeze FY 2016 tuition possible,” Dr. Breuder said.
According to the Illinois Community College Board, tuition has increased 8.5 percent at College of DuPage since FY 2011, which represents the fourth smallest increase of all 48 community colleges in Illinois. Examples of increases at other community colleges across the state range from $2 to $15 per credit hour, including Moraine Valley $2, Triton $5, Kishwaukee $6, Lake County $8, Oakton $8 and Black Hawk $15.
This past spring, College of DuPage recorded its highest-ever spring Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) and total credit headcount enrollment in the College’s 48-year history. In addition, College of DuPage was recently named the fastest-growing community college in the nation outside of California by Community College Week in a study with data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education, and a recent report from the Illinois Community College Board noted that COD is the only community college district in the state to grow Full-Time Equivalent enrollment over the past five years.
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