Board Approves $4 Per Credit Hour In-District Tuition Increase

The COD Board of Trustees voted to approve a $4 increase for in-district tuition and a $20 increase for out-of-district and out-of-state/international tuition.

Devin Oommen, Staff Writer

The COD Board of Trustees voted to approve a $4 per-credit-hour tuition increase for in-district students and a $20 per-credit-hour increase for out-of-state and out-of-district students in a special board meeting April 3. The increases are expected to create an additional $2.1 million in revenue. 

Starting in Fall 2023 tuition will be $144 per credit hour for in-district students, $347 per credit hour for out-of-district students, and $417 per credit hour for out-of-state students.

In a Feb. 23 board meeting, a 3% compensation increase was approved for managerial, classified and administrative staff for FY 2023-2024 based on economic inflation. This results in an estimated $1.4 million salary cost increase. The increase in in-district tuition is expected to create $1.4 million in additional revenue. 

For in-district students enrolled in 12 credit hours, the increase adds $48 to the total paid for a semester and an additional $240 for out-of-district and out-of-state students.

Students who are Pell eligible would not be affected as the Pell grant would cover the increased costs. 

To limit the impact on students who are not eligible for federal funds, such as the Pell Grant or other scholarship opportunities, the board approved a temporary $300,000 fund to help cover the increased tuition cost. Students who have demonstrated hardship and who meet the criteria will be able to apply for funds to cover the difference of the increase. 

The fund is based on how much would be needed to cover the difference for up to 5,000 students. 

“It was an estimate that it’s unlikely that we would have more than 5,000 students that would have this kind of hardship need,” said Board Chair Maureen Dunne. “We need to be mindful that we do have a lot of non-traditional students that are working that are already struggling purchasing their books, and those students where even an additional couple hundred dollars a year is a really big deal.” 

The board does not anticipate that all of the funds will be used. Any unused funds will be returned to the school’s operating budget. 

According to Dunne, if the demand for the fund is high, the board will seek ways to expand the college Foundation to continue to provide financial assistance for students who are not eligible for other aid and are unable to cover the increase.  

Student Trustee Ayesha Shafiuddin said for students who would benefit from the fund, such as students who are juggling school, work and/or family responsibilities, the process of seeking out or finding out about the resource and applying for it may be too high a barrier. 

“We often don’t have time to apply or look for the resources to support us,” said Shafiuddin. “In that case, a student might look at this and say ‘I’m not going to go this year.’” 

The process to apply for the funds and criteria that need to be met for approval will be presented to the board at a future meeting.

Trustee Dan Markwell was against including the $300,000 fund. In response to Markwell, Board Chair Maureene Dunne said that without an amendment to include the fund, the board would consider a lower increase instead. 

Markwell was the sole “no” vote on a motion to approve the $4 increase with an amendment to include the $300,000 fund as a line item in the FY 2023-2024 budget.

Trustee Nick Howard said the increase is necessary to keep the college in alignment with current market trends and economic environment. 

“Inflation is over 6% this year and has increased over the last two-and-a-half years rather significantly. The prices the college pays for services has increased as well as salaries,” said Howard. “It’s something that is done in the normal course of business.”

Since 2019, tuition has increased by $8 per credit hour for in-district students, $24 per credit hour for out-of-district students and $24 per credit hour for out-of-state and international students.

The increase is projected to result in an additional $500,000 from out-of-district tuition and $200,000 from out-of-state tuition.

Dean of Student Affairs Nathania Montes sent an email to students on April 4 notifying them of the $4 increase.

Earlier this year, the board decided not to request a tax-levy increase, the amount that the college is able to collect in property tax revenue from District 502 residents.

Dunne said the decision not to request an increase in the tax levy was not because they chose to increase tuition.

“It was never an either or option with the tax levy versus this decision. We were waiting to get some further information when the budget committee met,” Dunne said. “With the administration research that we’ve received over the last year and with recent information coming to light, if this vote is passed tonight, we will be significantly underpriced as relative to the marketplace for Illinois community college tuition cost.”

Before the increase, among surrounding community colleges, only Elgin Community College’s in-district tuition was cheaper than COD at $132 per credit hour. Waubonsee Community College in-district tuition was $140 per credit hour. Among seven other surrounding community colleges, in-district tuition was $1.25 to $29 dollars per credit hour more expensive than COD, out-of-district tuition $19 to $145 per credit hour more expensive than COD and out-of-state tuition $4 to $88 per credit hour more expensive than COD. Before the increase, Elgin Community College was $30 less per credit hour than COD for out-of-district students and $1 per credit hour less for out-of-state students.

According to the board packet from the meeting, an Illinois Community College Chief Financial Officer survey indicated that colleges will be increasing their tuition for FY 2023-2024 anywhere from $2 to $15 per credit hour.

As of June 30, 2022, COD had $235.8 million in its general and working cash funds. A total of $160.4 million of those funds are unrestricted or have not been allocated for other purposes. In Jan. 2021, the board approved $15.4 million for retiree post employment benefits and $60 million for recapitalization plan projects.

Trustees Annette Corrigan and Howard said future conversations need to focus on reducing college expenses. 

“We keep talking about revenues. We don’t talk enough about expenses and we really need to,” said Howard. “That means in all categories.”

The college has an emergency funding program for students who are impacted by an unforeseen occurrence.