Citing a need to keep better pace with inflation, the majority of College of DuPage trustees at their March 15 meeting approved a $1 tuition increase, to take effect for the fall 2018 semester.
Tuition and fees will be $136 per credit hour for in-district residents. The $1 increase is the Board of Trustees’ first increase since 2014.
In fiscal year 2015, in-district tuition was $144 per credit hour. Since that time, the board has voted twice to decrease tuition a total of $9 per credit hour to $135. Tuition remained flat the last three consecutive years.
Voting "no" were COD trustees Dan Markwell and Joseph Wozniak and student trustee Anthony Walker.
"While I understand that it is only a $1 per credit hour increase, the cost of college is the most important factor to our students here at the college," said Markwell, who himself is a COD student. "And for that reason, I will be voting against this."
Walker also voted against the increase. He criticized the college for not providing enough information to students about the proposed increase.
"There was limited to no prior communication on this proposed increase," Walker said. "The student body was not aware about the proposal prior to last week. As a full-time student and a full-time employee who bears 100 percent of the cost for paying for school, who comes from a working class family, I 100 percent stand by my decision that this raise is not justifiable."
Wozniak said he thought the proposed increase was being fast tracked.
"I don't think this should be put on the back of the students now," he said. "And secondly, I don't think that giving a week's time is enough time to even prepare for any of this."
Board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi said cuts would have to be made if tuition wasn't increased.
"The question I suppose that I might ask to our trustees who are also students, what are you willing to sacrifice if you don't want tuition increasing?" Mazzochi asked. "Do you want to cut employees? Do you want to cut services? Do you want to not have, for example, a new cadaver lab like the one that we just built? Do you not want to have new offices for the honors program? We have to, as trustees, be good stewards for the institution as a whole and account for our stakeholders."
With the increase, COD's tuition and fees are expected to amount to $78.6 million for fiscal year 2019, a $4 million decline attributed to an estimated 4-percent decline in enrollment. The decline in enrollment would follow the trend from the prior two academic years.
"The $1 increase offsets that to a small degree," Vice President of Administration and Treasurer Brian Caputo said. "It generates something less than $500,000 for the year."
Even with the increase, COD's tuition and fees will still be less than the new state average for community colleges, which will be $146.50 or so per credit hour, Caputo said.
"The average increase for next year among other community colleges in the survey is $3," he said. "So we're one-third of what the increase would be for other community colleges in the state of Illinois."
Along with property tax revenue and state support, tuition revenue is one of the major funding sources used to fund all general operations of the college. Tuition and fees comprise 24 percent of COD's total revenue base, with another 32 percent coming from local property taxes.
Trustee Alan Bennett noted the 1965 act that created community colleges in Illinois called for property taxes to pay for one-third of the college's instructional costs, with tuition also paying one-third, along with state government. Currently, state government provides 6 percent of COD's revenues.
"And gee-whiz, 6 percent does not look like 33.3 percent," Bennett said.