Illinois state code currently requires that each community college must charge students a minimum tuition rate per credit hour based on 85% of the average of the combined rates of all community colleges in the state.
Failure to comply with this law could result in the loss of state Equalization Funds, following notification by the Illinois Community College Board, if tuition is not raised a sufficient amount to satisfy the state code.
This year, Rock Valley College received $1.3M in state equalization funding - over 2% of the college’s $60 million annual operating budget.
HB1864 introduced in the General Assembly in February 2011 would lower the 85% minimum tuition requirement to 70%, which would effectively reduce the amount of tuition a community college would be forced to charge students in order to receive their state equalization funds.
The bill was passed by the House in March of 2011 and sent to the Senate, where it languished for over a year. The bill was finally assigned to the Senate Higher Education Committee in April of this year, passed by both houses and then sent to the governor for his approval on December 6, 2012.
The governor should sign this legislation to alleviate community colleges such as RVC, which charges students tuition rates, which are the fifth lowest in the state, from being forced to raise its tuition simply to comply with the existing state code.
As an example of how this legislation would affect RVC, this year’s minimum tuition rate average for the state was calculated to be $107.89 per credit hour. Therefore, at 85% of the state average, the minimum tuition rate that must be charged by all community colleges is $91.91 per credit hour.
Rock Valley College’s tuition rate is currently $93 per credit hour, $1.09 above the state’s minimum average. If the bill is signed into law by the governor, the new 70% of state tuition average would drop the minimum tuition rate per credit hour to $75.52.
Tuition at RVC would then be $17.48 above the minimum state average and RVC could not be forced for years to raise tuition simply to comply with state code because other colleges have raised their tuition.
This year, community colleges raised their tuition rates by an average of about $6 per credit hour. At the current 85% minimum tuition rate, RVC would have had to raise its minimum rate by $4.01 ($5.10 minus $1.09), simply to comply with the current state statute, even if no increase was necessary!
Tuition has increased at RVC by 35% since 2008, almost the same amount (37%) as the state’s minimum average tuition has increased over the same period. Tuition for full time students at RVC is still less than $1500 per semester or less than $3000 per year!
HB1864 could lower the tuition that frugal community colleges are required to charge their students, simply because they are coupled to community colleges in the state with perhaps a greater propensity to spend taxpayer dollars.
If the governor signs the HB1864 into law, RVC would not only remain a good financial investment for students, but would continue to provide a great educational opportunity with the excellent faculty and leadership staff.