Declining Enrollment Fuels Push For Tuition Increase

The COD budget committee proposed a tuition increase as part of a strategy to ease losses from declining enrollment.

Devin Oommen, Staff Writer

The COD Budget Committee proposed a $1 increase in tuition for fiscal year 2023 at a meeting on Feb. 9. The proposed increase for fiscal year ‘23 would raise tuition to $139 per credit hour for an in-district student, $296 for an out-of-district student and $366 for out-of-state students. 

The proposed increase is in response to a 3.8% decrease in enrollment in fiscal year ‘22 and an anticipated 3% decrease in fiscal year ‘23. The college anticipates $10 million in lost tuition revenue for fiscal year ‘23 as a result of the decreased enrollment. The proposed tuition increase covers a fraction of what the college anticipates to lose. The remaining costs are expected to be covered by an increase in tax levied from DuPage County and drawing $13.3 million from the college’s savings. 

College of DuPage Budget Manager Antoinette Stella also outlined how the college will reduce ependitures in response to the anticipated loss of revenue.

“We’ve made some reductions to student worker lines, academic support, adjunct faculty, summer faculty, overtime, temporary workers, and non teaching faculty overload. In other expenditure areas we have reduced lines related to conference and meetings, materials and supplies and contractual services for a total of $9.2 million,” she said.

Stella cited that as of Fall ‘21 COD’s tuition is below the state average. Compared to community colleges with enrollments above 10,000 students COD’s tuition is the second-most expensive. In order of largest to smallest, the tuition of colleges with 10,000 or more enrolled students is as follows: Harper College $133.50, College of Lake County $125, Moraine Valley Spring $131, Joliet Junior College $148. 

The committee looked at money made from tuition since 2012, citing that tuition was at a peak in fiscal year 2015 when tuition was $144 per credit hour. 

“At our peak in 2015 tuition and fees generated roughly $86 million in revenues and in fiscal year 2023 this amount is now projected at 58 million, a 33% decrease. The key assumption here of course is the $1 tuition increase in 2023 (and) enrollment decline of 3%,” Stella said. 

After 2015 tuition was lowered to $134 because trustees wanted to spend down some of the savings the college had accumulated. 

“You look at 2015 we’re already 30 million dollars below that level,” said COD Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Scott Brady.  “The tuition rate in 2015 was $144 a credit hour. The tuition rate this year is $138 a credit hour. So tuition was lowered approximately $10 a credit hour…after that period and has gone up slightly since then with a $1 increase a year for about four years in a row and flat no increase last year. We’re still $6 below where we were in 2015 as far as tuition revenue. And enrollment has gone down. So that combination has taken a toll as you can see on the projections.” 

The proposed increase is subject to approval and may change. Budget Committee Chairman Daniel Markwell said raising tuition more than $1 might be necessary.  

“It seems pretty clear to me that one of the easiest and most apparent options in front of the college is that we have to reconsider the $1 per year tuition increase,” Markwell said. “At least until we get to a point where we’re back above where we were in 2015, and we’re closer or above the state average. I think that we have to look, you know, to, who knows what the actual dollar number is…I definitely think that has to be the subject of conversation. It’s not whether or not we do increase, it’s how much we increase. Expenses are going to continue to go up, and cutting is great, but it’s pretty clear that revenues, to some degree, have to start going up as well.”  The committee did not outline whether the increase in tuition price would continue beyond fiscal year ‘23. 

The full board of trustees must vote on any tuition increase before it is put into action.

Video of the meeting can be found here.