College of DuPage students will pay $4 per credit hour more to attend the college beginning in the fall.
It could have been higher, though. The original proposal would have hiked tuition and fees $6, to $146 per credit hour, but the lesser figure was decided on after stiff resistance from most trustees.
“My position is that it’s financially responsible to take this step,” College of DuPage Board Chairperson Erin Birt said before the vote on the $6 per credit hour hike first proposed Feb. 20.
Board Secretary Allison O’Donnell agreed with Birt, but trustees Joe Wozniak, Dianne McGuire, Nancy Svoboda, Kathy Hamilton and Kim Savage turned thumbs-down, prompting a discussion among trustees about what increase, if any, was justified.
“We’ve heard tonight from a lot of people in the community that are against it,” Hamilton said.
She noted that the college has about $140 million in cash in reserve and didn’t think the increase was in keeping with a community college’s responsibility of being accessible to the community.
Savage noted the college’s enviable position of having increased enrollment, and both Svoboda and McGuire pointed to other institutions of higher learning in Illinois that had decided to limit their tuition hikes to the increase in the consumer price index.
Wozniak noted that he was a COD graduate, saying, “I know what it’s like to be a struggling student.”
Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen was critical of the tuition hike.
“You’re going to raise tuition on people who can afford it least,” he said.
Hansen also said that the tuition hike was in no way related to salary increases or costs associated with complying with the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re not the bad guys here,” he said.
Comment from students was limited and mixed.
Freshman Monica Dinn cautioned the board not to assume that students are apathetic about the increase, saying they might they might be too busy with school and work to show concern.
“We know the value of our education because we pay for it,” she said.
She said a tuition increase “will create more hardships than you realize.”
Samuel Ortega-Guerrero represented the Student Leadership Council and was sympathetic to the need for an increase.
“It’s necessary for the success of the college,” he said, calling the increase “inevitable,” and “fiscally responsible.”
However, he said that a tuition hike would be a burden on many and said that he would prefer to see a smaller increase.
COD Senior Vice President Tom Glaser made the case for the bigger increase.
He said that even with a $3 tuition increase and $1 hike in fees, the college would still face a shortfall of about $6.6 million for fiscal year 2015.
Glaser cited several reasons for the shortfall, including limitations placed on the college’s property tax levy due to the Illinois tax cap and additional costs in salary ($4.5 million) and health care costs ($1.4 million).
Glaser said another problem for the college was that the state of Illinois was not likely to come anywhere close to funding 33 percent of the college’s expenses, like it is supposed to.
But with many trustees still not buying the need for the $6 per credit hour hike, Svoboda nudged the issue toward a compromise. She had already noted that she understood the need for some increase, but balked at the amount proposed.
In order to “shave it down a bit,” Svoboda proposed an increase of $4, and the trustees came to agreement on that figure.
She indicated that the increase would be “more manageable” while at the same time asking students to contribute.
In the end, the proposal passed 4 to 3, with Wozniak and Svoboda joining Birt and O’Donnell to approve the increase, with Hamilton, McGuire and Savage opposed.