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Local News

Legislators react to Joliet Junior College placing tuition hike blame on state

McGuire: ‘They’re correct’

JOLIET – On March 14, the Joliet Junior College Board approved a base tuition increase of $19 per credit hour, increasing the price per credit hour to $144 after fees are included.

Students will pay 8.7 percent more than they do now per credit hour, beginning in the fall semester.

Several board members said their vote of approval was because of a lack of state funding and inaction by state politicians. Trustee Alicia Morales was the only member to vote against the increase, which will help fill a projected $4.4 million JJC budget gap for one year.

College officials proposed the tuition increase under the assumption JJC will receive only 50 percent of state funding because of the ongoing state budget crisis. 

Robert Galick, administrative services vice president, said at the meeting that $16 of the $19 tuition increase is because of the absence of state funding. Galick said the increase is intended to be a one-year stopgap to overcome Springfield’s fiscal woes.

State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, said “they’re correct” in response to the board’s placing blame on state legislators.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said he felt similarly.

”The state is putting the board in a situation where they may not have a way out. We’re certainly putting them in a tough circumstance,” Batinick said. “I’m working to rectify it, but it’s been painfully slow and frustrating.”

McGuire, who is chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Higher Education Committee, noted that last April legislators agreed to a $600 million supplemental appropriation that passed both sides of the General Assembly unanimously. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it within days.

“I recently asked Rauner’s budget director what the administration’s plan is for this spring,” McGuire said. “The director told me there are no plans for supplemental appropriation.”

McGuire said that means there’s no support from the governor’s office for educational appropriations.

“This means the governor is unwilling to pass a stopgap budget for the second half of this year, until he gets what he wants in the next fiscal year’s budget,” McGuire said. “This continues the uncertainty that plagues school students and their families.”

Batinick said state funding of higher education has been “erratic at best.”

“There were promises made to them twice from the old capital bill that they’re still waiting on,” Batinick said. “Funding has been slowed or cut in terms of regular appropriations. I’m aware of it and frustrated by it.”

McGuire said a grand bargain negotiated by Senate leaders fell apart after Rauner called for a permanent property tax freeze and derailed the bargain by directing “every Republican senator willing to vote for it,” except for Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, to withdraw support.

One of the 12 bills in the grand bargain, McGuire said, was a supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year that would release $1.1 billion to higher education. It includes Monetary Award Program grants for students and operation grants for public community colleges and universities.

Galick presented the board with a chart at the meeting last week that showed state funding was about 5 percent of the college’s total revenue, while property taxes come in at about 58 percent and tuition makes up about 34 percent.

McGuire noted community colleges were once envisioned to get a third of their funding from three different sources – the state, property taxes and tuition. That balance doesn’t exist today.

McGuire said negotiations continue between Radogno and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

JJC’s tuition has doubled in the past 10 years. But it’s still in the range of other community colleges in northeastern Illinois, and cheaper than most four-year universities. Before fees, community colleges in the region range from $102.15 per credit hour at College of DuPage to $134 per credit hour at Kankakee Community College.

Schools have varying fees for things such as capital improvements, labs and technology, and varying discounts for seniors.

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BY THE NUMBERS

Base tuition per credit hour at northeastern Illinois community colleges, not including fees:

Joliet Junior College (fall 2017): $113 per credit hour

Joliet Junior College (current): $94 per credit hour

College of DuPage: $102.15 per credit hour

College of Lake County: $115 per credit hour

Elgin Community College: $129 per credit hour

Kankakee Community College: $134 per credit hour

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