Tuition hike on docket at Sauk meeting

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DIXON – As surrounding community colleges eliminate positions and consider cutbacks of tenured staff, Sauk Valley Community College isn’t resorting to such measures.

Not yet.

Tuition, however, is about to see a hike. At Monday night’s meeting, the Board of Trustees will approve an increase that could be as much as $12 per credit hour. For every extra dollar per credit hour, the school’s revenue will increase $32,000.

Operating with a projected $1.6 million shortfall in fiscal year 2017, in large part because of receiving less than one-third of its state funding, the college can’t balk at the prospect of nearly $400,000 in extra revenue.

“[The $12 increase] is more than we would want to do, but with the state of state being what it is, we can’t do a $2, $3 or $4 increase that we’d like to do,” Hellmich said.

Sauk isn’t the only one talking rate increases. Highland Community College in Freeport is bumping up its rate $12. It currently charges $129 per hour, whereas Sauk charges $114, which is about $5 below the state average.Last year, Sauk increased tuition $7.

Of community colleges that have finalized their 2017-18 rate, the average hike is about $6 per credit hour. Some schools also are increasing activity fees, including Highland, by $2. Sauk is not, after increasing fees $2 a year ago.

Meanwhile, Black Hawk Community College in the Quad Cities saw eight of its staff cut, including two from the art department, at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting – that after 17 staffers were cut in January. Rock Valley Community College will take action Tuesday on layoffs that officials say will affect both tenured and nontenured staff.

“We are not talking about that sort of action,” Sauk President Dave Hellmich said Saturday. “That might be something we’ll have to talk about down the road, but we’re not having that discussion yet. What we’re looking to do is not fill positions. Our faculty and staff understand this.”

Two Sauk staffers will not be renewed for the fall: fire science assistant professor Jeffrey Newbury and economics associate professor Jose Mendez. Newbury’s program wasn’t seeing the needed enrollment, reflective of a national trend, Hellmich said.

“There’s not as much of a need for credit-bearing degrees,” he said. “A degree in fire science doesn’t really matter that much for folks in that line of work.”

Fire science will still be offered, mostly through community education.

Hellmich would not comment on Mendez’s non-renewal.

After Thursday’s board retreat, much budget discussion is expected Monday. The school has cut $275,000 in non-personnel expenses for this fiscal year and the next, and has saved $135,000 to date this fiscal year in reduced positions. Hellmich said potential retirees’ pictures will become clearer in the next few weeks.

“So that number, [$135,000], could go up, and fairly significantly,” he said.

While the stopgap measure signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on June 30 fully funded K-12 education for the whole school year, Sauk got just 28 percent of its funding for the fall.

That’s after the college got about 20 percent of its funding for the 2015-16 school year, via a previous stopgap measure.

“This is the hand we’re dealt, all these unknowns in Springfield,” Hellmich said. “None of us want this, but you can’t bury your head in the sand and say, ‘Woe is us.’”

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Tuition hike on docket at Sauk meeting

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