DIXON – Following a statewide trend – and in keeping with a roughly decade-long tradition – Sauk Valley Community College is raising its in-district tuition.
The increase will be $4 per credit hour, to $107, for the 2014-15 school year.
The raise is needed to help offset a projected $400,000 budget shortfall caused in large part by ongoing cutbacks in state aid, President George Mihel said.
That means the cost for a full-time load of 15 credit hours for 2 years will rise from $6,180 to $6,420, an increase of $250.
Sauk has raised tuition for all but one of the past 11 years, according to Sauk Valley Media archives. The college froze tuition at $99 in 2011-12, then raised it to $101 for 2012-13 before it increased it to $103 for 2013-14.
Next year's $4 hike is less than the average 2014-15 tuition bump, which is about $6 per credit hour statewide, and keeps Sauk in the lower end of the state's 39 community college districts.
The move is expected to raise about $140,000 for Sauk; some of the rest of its shortfall will be made up by leaving some positions open, and by hiring less-experienced and therefore lower-paid staff to replace those who are retiring, Mihel said.
Tuition and fees constitute 13 percent of Sauk's income; property taxes bring in nearly a third, and federal and state sources each make up about a quarter of the budget.
The school also is looking for other areas to cut, and is polling its students, asking them where they think trims should be made, Mihel said.
"We're looking at the overall picture. Certainly, the board's priority is to keep tuition as low as we possibly can; that's always our mission," Mihel said.
He said he has no doubt the budget, which will be passed in June, will balance, as it did last year.
According to information provided to Sauk's Board of Trustees, which voted on the tuition increase at its February meeting last week, 23 of the state's community college districts are planning increases.
The highest tuition next year will be $140 per credit hour, the lowest $92. The biggest estimated hikes statewide are as much as $10 and $12 per credit hour, but "we think that's best to do with small, bite-sized increases," Mihel said.
Sauk also is beginning to look into and encourage its instructors to use College Open Textbooks (collegeopentextbooks.org), which provides free digital textbooks and could help cut students' costs considerably, Mihel said.
According to its website, the College Open Textbooks Collaborative is a collection of 29 educational nonprofit and for-profit organizations, affiliated with more than 200 colleges, that is focused on driving awareness and adoptions of open textbooks to more than 2,000 community and other 2-year colleges.
Estimated tuition hikes for the region
Seven Illinois community college districts serve students in Whiteside, Lee, Ogle, Carroll, and Bureau counties. Following are their current charges per credit hour, and next school year's estimated increase:
Listed by: Fiscal year 2014; Estimated increase; Fiscal year 2015
Illinois Valley (in Oglesby): $101; $10; $111
Illinois Central (in East Peoria): $115; $10; $125
Highland (in Freeport): $131; $9; $140
Rock Valley (in Rockford): $97; $7; $104
Sauk Valley (in Dixon): $103; $4; $107
Black Hawk (in Moline): $115; $2; $117
Kishwaukee (in Malta): $112; $0; $112
Source: Sauk Valley Community College Board of Trustees