The dollar amount and percentage of state funds toward community colleges have been decreasing, a longtime chief financial officer said.
“We really haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Frank Zeller of Peru about the limited state funding.
“We’re living in interesting times.”
Zeller served as Illinois Valley Community College’s chief financial officer for 27 years, retiring in 2000, and went on to serve as interim chief financial officer at other community colleges.
While state funding toward Illinois Valley Community College has decreased over the years, tuition and local money have taken up bigger parts of IVCC’s revenue pie.
For this fiscal year, IVCC projects to receive 7.9% of its total revenue from the state, but in fiscal year 2000, that number was 22.5% (see pie charts for other specific numbers).
Tax rates have declined, while tuition continued rising
“Overall, when you take into account the dollar amount and what we have to work with, it’s going to shift the balance,” said IVCC president Jerry Corcoran.
Adding to the problem of decreasing state funding is the issue of declining enrollment.
“We’re all going through this,” Zeller said about declining community college enrollment in Illinois.Zeller explained that no matter how many students are in a class, the cost is still the same.
How IVCC’s tax rate has changed?
|Year||Rate||Annual tax for $100,000 home|
In FY 2000, IVCC’s 10th day enrollment headcount was 3,765 students, compared to 2018, when that number was 2,958 students.
“The good thing is we have community colleges,” Zeller said, explaining that the institutions offer affordable tuition while allowing people to work and study at the same time.
When looking at all the college’s funds, and then looking at the operating funds, Corcoran said he thinks the college has done a good job controlling its costs.
“Despite the drop in enrollments and an unfortunate two-year budget impasse situation, we’ve guaranteed (Monetary Award Program) funding, offered tuition-free dual credit opportunities for free-and-reduced lunch-eligible high school students, launched exciting new programs and maintained our reputation for quality,” Corcoran said.
And he said he’s proud how IVCC’s been able to control its tax rate over the past 20 years — a home valued at $100,000 paid $156.24 per year on property taxes in 2001 compared to paying $122.08 per year in 2018 toward IVCC.
“Compared to what we’re getting from the state and what we’re getting in the way of tuition and fees, I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” Corcoran said.
He mentioned that during the 2015-17 Illinois budget impasse, IVCC had to dig in its heels through “terrible financial times” to not lay anyone off while still maintaining the quality of programs and services it had for so many years.
While the district’s tax rate is lower than it was 20 years ago, tuition continued to rise: In FY 2000, a credit hour including the universal fee cost a student $50, but this year, that number is $133.
Maybe times are changing
Illinois’ new budget includes more money for higher education.
The budget includes a $13.9 million increase, or 5%, for the community college operating grants and the adult education system, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.There’s also a $1 million increase for transitional math and English and $23.8 million in additional dollars for bridge programs and student support services.
“I think that what we’ve heard is all the signs are positive from Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker and the legislature that they realize that the community colleges are the economic engines of the state of Illinois, and they need to figure out a way to prioritize funding for them,” Corcoran said.
If more state funding continues, will tuition ever be able to decrease?
“I think it’s a possibility,” Corcoran said, and he’d like to think the college will begin to move back into something that’s more equally distributed and more practical, which is then more affordable for students.