Harper College is proposing a 4.3 percent tuition and fee increase starting with classes this summer.
The proposal, which wouldn’t go into effect until approval by the board of trustees, calls for students at the Palatine-based community college to pay $5.75 more per credit hour, from the current $135.25 rate to $141.
An additional $3-per-credit-hour fee increase is proposed to go into effect in the spring of 2018, to help fund ongoing maintenance of a new parking garage and the college’s Recreation and Wellness Center. A $38 million renovation of that building is expected to start soon and be complete by fall 2018.
Officials blame this year’s proposed tuition increase on a variety of factors, including state funding cuts, concerns about a potential state-imposed property tax freeze, and rising personnel costs.
Ron Ally, Harper’s executive vice president of finance and administrative services, said the increase would likely keep Harper “in the middle of the pack” of tuition and fee prices at community colleges, many of which are also pondering tuition increases.
The planned increase comes a year after Harper raised the rate by $5.50.
Even with the hike, Harper’s next budget is still about $750,000 in the red. The college administration will soon identify cuts that can be made to bring the budget into balance, Ally said.
College officials plan to bring their recommendation to student government and college shared governance committees before a final vote of the board of trustees Feb. 15. The board got an early look at the proposal during a committee meeting last week, when some trustees questioned its necessity.
Trustee Bill Kelley said he wanted the administration to recommend alternatives to increasing tuition, including programming cuts.
“This may not be the Harper College we saw 5 to 10 years ago,” Kelley said. “It may be something significantly different.”
College President Ken Ender said he is planning to present the board with financial documents this summer that detail how much every program makes and loses.
“You tell us,” Ender told the board. “Some programs are moneymakers, and there’s others that cost you $2 million.”
But even with a $5.75-per-credit-hour increase, Ender said, “I think (Harper) is a heck of a value.”
Harper’s preliminary fiscal year 2018 budget assumes all current expenses will remain steady, except salaries and benefits due to labor agreements already in place. Those costs represent 77 percent of Harper’s annual budget.
“Do you actually in collective bargaining discussions talk about the necessity to drop benefits like every other company in the country?” Trustee Jim Gallo asked administrators.
“We’re not every other company. We’re every other higher education institution,” said Ender, adding that trustees are expected to meet in closed session this Wednesday to examine a salary and benefits survey that compares Harper with other colleges.
The study is expected to play a part in upcoming contract negotiations with faculty.