City Colleges of Chicago is considering a 2 percent annual tuition increase in each of the next four years starting this fall, according to an internal presentation obtained by WBEZ. The Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the increase at a March 7 board meeting.
According to the presentation, full-time in-district students would see tuition increase by $36 a semester every year or $144 by 2023. At that time, a full course load would cost about $1,900 per semester.
Out-of-district students would see an $8 increase per credit hour every year and out-of-state and international students would see a $10 increase. City Colleges estimates the increases would generate $1.9 million for FY 2020, if enrollment remains flat. Enrollment has declined 32 percent since 2010.
In a statement, City Colleges confirmed the proposed tuition hike and said they are in the process of “sharing possible tuition plans with the college community that will maintain affordability and competitiveness.” They could not immediately provide what kind of feedback or input they received from faculty and students about the proposed tuition increases, which are currently in draft form.
City Colleges estimates only a small percentage of students who receive federal Pell education grants will see a tuition increase. Most Pell grant recipients will see no out-of-pocket increases. Pell grant totals are expected to increase in 2020. However, once tuition costs are covered by a Pell grant, schools are required to give the rest of the grant money directly to the student. Higher tuition could decrease the refund a student might receive.
City Colleges is considering the increase to address declining state funds, a drop in enrollment and rising health and labor costs, according to the presentation.
Its reserves were depleted during the recent state budget impasse when it didn’t get state funds, dropping by $59 million in 2017 to cover an operating deficit. Chancellor Juan Salgado has said one of his goals is to increase those reserves. Last year, City Colleges sold its downtown district office to help rebuild its reserves. The system also is developing an enrollment management plan to address the decline in students.
Even with the tuition increase, City Colleges’ tuition remains comparable to other community colleges in the state, according to data from the Illinois Community College Board. City Colleges is the only community college system in the state that does not charge students ancillary fees. They also cap tuition rates at 12 credit hours, so students taking more than 12 credits don’t pay for each additional credit.
In the presentation, City Colleges touts that a larger percentage of full-time students are taking 12 or more credits today than five years ago. But a review of those numbers shows the percentage has increased because the total number of full-time students has dropped since 2014. The number of students taking 15 or more credits declined between spring 2014 and spring 2019.
The proposed tuition increase is smaller than when City Colleges adjusted tuition rates in 2015. Then, full-time tuition jumped from $1,068 to $1,753. Last year, the system rolled back changes that primarily hurt part-time students, who make up a large portion of the students.
An internal presentation from earlier this year shows City Colleges was considering changing its tuition structure to charge tuition based on specialization or program. But a spokeswoman says the system is no longer considering that idea.