DEKALB COUNTY (WIFR) -- The Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 12, unanimously voted to increase tuition for the 2013-14 academic year by $12 per credit hour. The cost per credit hour, beginning with the Summer 2013 semester will be $101. The Board also voted to increase technology fees by $1.00 per credit hour and implement variable tuition for the Nursing program.
The College has always approached the issue of tuition increases as conservatively as possible. Last year the College was one of only two community colleges in Illinois who did not raise tuition. The 2012-2013 academic year tuition rate at Kishwaukee College was $89 plus $11 in fees for a total of $100 per credit hour. That ranks the College in the lowest third in tuition and fee rates in the state. The average rate among Illinois community colleges for 2012/2013 was $107.89.
However, reduced state funding and declining property tax revenue have made a tuition increase necessary. The current increase still keeps Kishwaukee College in the mid-range of community college costs in the state based on 2012/2013 rates. Bob Johnson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “While we were reluctant to go with a $12 tuition increase, we understand that was what was needed in order to maintain the quality of services. The Board chose not to raise tuition last year.”
With a long tradition of fiscal responsibility, the College has trimmed its budget for the upcoming year as much as possible but still retain the high quality of instruction. Cuts for Fiscal Year 2014 include: reduction in departmental travel by 27%; no participation in staff exchange programs; reduction in capital requests by over 80%; and all vacant positions will be evaluated. With the funding concerns from the state and reduced property taxes, the proposed spending cuts will not have enough of an effect on creating a viable budget for the upcoming fiscal year without the tuition increase.
Like all community colleges, Kishwaukee College receives funding from three primary sources: the state of Illinois, district property taxes, and student tuition and fees.
Kishwaukee College receives 18.1% of its total operating revenue from the state of Illinois. A projected 4.6% drop in state funding is anticipated for the upcoming fiscal year, FY14. The state of Illinois is also behind in payments of revenues owed to the College. To date, Kishwaukee College has received 21% of the FY13 payments promised by the state. FY13 began on July 1, 2012. The state is past due by $2,090,828.
The second source of funding is local property taxes. Property tax collection is based on the Equalized Assessed Value or EAV of area property. In a depressed housing market and sluggish economy, EAVs have fallen in the local area by an estimated 8.4% in 2012. A drop in EAVs results in less revenue for many local organizations and programs, including educational institutions, that receive funding from the collected taxes. Kishwaukee College receives 36.4% of its operating revenue from local property taxes.
Faced with a shortage of revenue from the state and the reduction of local property taxes collected, the College faces nearly a $1 million reduction in funding in FY14 compared to the previous year. The only recourse for the Board of Trustees is to increase revenue from the tuition costs. Student tuition and fees comprise 45.1% of the College’s operating revenues. In an effort to maintain accessibility, the Board reviewed several tuition increase scenarios and chose the most conservative that will generate revenue yet still maintain affordability for community residents.
Gladys Sanchez, Student Trustee to the Board, has had the opportunity to hear first hand all the information that went into deciding the tuition increase for the College. “While an increase of any kind is hard on students, I understand it is necessary for the College in order to move forward and maintain the level of programs and services students have become accustomed too,” she stated. She also noted that Kishwaukee College is not unique in its circumstances. “Other community colleges across the state are also having to look at large tuition increases because of decreased state funding,” she said.
During the same Board meeting, the Board of Trustees also approved variable tuition for the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program. A variable tuition rate of $101 per credit hour, in addition to the standard tuition rate, will be applied to courses in the ADN program. Variable tuition will be phased in over two years. The Board unanimously approved the variable tuition based on the rising cost of providing Nursing instruction, the availability of scholarships to Nursing students through the Kishwaukee College Foundation, and the high demand/high wage for Nursing graduates. According to Bette Chilton, Dean of Health and Education, “The Kishwaukee College Nursing program is still the most cost effective way to becoming a registered nurse in the area.”
Johnson also commented on the current building projects going on at the College. “Tax payers did approve a referendum in 2010 for necessary expansion projects. Operational costs have not been increased due to addition of the new building.” Included in the expansion project was a geothermal field to heat and cool the new facilities on campus. Johnson added, “We have been fortunate that energy efficiency improvements on campus, many funded by grants, and the addition of the geothermal field, plus the declining cost of energy and natural gas over the past few years, have resulted in energy costs to operate the Student Center and campus as a whole being reduced by 25%.” Over the last five years, the College has saved $1 million due to the energy efficient measures put into place.
Kishwaukee College is prepared to meet the economic realities of the state of Illinois and the current property tax decline with a responsible combination of budget modifications and revenue generation via the tuition increase to continue to provide the quality academics, programs, and services necessary to assist and support the district residents.