Increased Tuition is PSC’s Latest Response to State Budget Crisis [04/25/2017]
The Prairie State College Board of Trustees voted during a special meeting this month to raise the tuition for fall 2017, based on a $7.50 per credit hour increase for in-district students. The decision comes during a time when Illinois State lawmakers approach a third year without a budget, resulting in vastly reduced funding for higher educational institutions in the state.
Discussion during the April 13 meeting focused primarily on quality, with trustees addressing the need for the college to focus less on being the least expensive option, and more on keeping costs in line with the quality of the education received. This discussion ultimately led board members to determine, by a majority vote, that an increase to tuition was warranted.
After the meeting, Board Chair Jacqueline Agee commended the board for their poignant discussion. “This was not an easy decision for the administration or board to make,” she said. “But, it is clear that, in order to continue providing quality education to the students in our community, it is necessary to increase tuition at the college,” she added. “Ultimately - even with this tuition increase - the cost to attend Prairie State College still remains reasonable and affordable for the quality of education that we offer,” she said.
Because of the ongoing budget crisis, and in order to preserve the quality of instruction PSC offers, the college has already taken numerous measures to maintain fiscal responsibility on campus, while minimizing the effect the lack of state funding has had on the student body. Since 2015, PSC has only approved filling positions that are deemed ‘essential to the operation’ of the college, which, to date, has left more than 20 positions unfilled. This number does not include the 16 employees who were laid off when, in 2015, the college closed the Children’s Learning Center facility. The Athletics Department also reduced the number of teams by two and an audit was conducted to determine there were no duplicates in athletic waivers. College-wide travel, hospitality and supplies budgets have been reduced, including travel expenses for board members. The college also reduced contractual services and consultants.
The college also developed partnerships with agencies to provide cost-effective efficient programs that offer high-level quality in line with the college’s goals. This includes KLLM Transport Services, which operates a CDL program that not only offers high quality instruction, but also offers employment opportunities to our graduates of the program. Additionally, a National Able office was opened on campus, combining several employment services organizations, to create a one-stop center for employment resources, as well as bring in additional revenue. The Community and Economic Development Department also has brought in an increased number of students and corporate training clients and increased the number of events hosted on campus, which also increased revenue for the college.
The administration has started a number of new initiatives, in an effort to counteract the lack of state funding and cost reductions that have occurred across the college. A Resource Development Committee has been developed and tasked to find alternative funding sources, and an Alumni Committee has been established to re-engage the college graduates. PSC President Dr. Terri L. Winfree also has begun an awareness campaign intended to bring community members on campus who have never visited or have not visited in many years, to help educate the community of the many great things the college has to offer.
Dr. Winfree also has joined with students and public college and university presidents several times in Springfield to make a plea for the legislature to understand the hardships many colleges have been forced to endure because of the lack of state funding. She also regularly joins with other college representatives and students in the efforts to promote the importance of community colleges because of their accessibility and affordability, and the effect the budget impasse has on the community.
“What is most important to the college are our students and the community that we serve,” Dr. Winfree said. “Together, we are determined to do everything within our power to maintain outstanding programs taught by our great faculty and continue to stay true to the college’s mission and values,” she added.