Enrollment at several Illinois community colleges is at an all-time low. At the same time, the cost of tuition has gone up.
In 2017, seven suburban community colleges reported a combined total of 60,177 students. This is a 9 percent drop from their combined average over the past 10 years. Tuition and fees were 14.3 percent higher than the 10-year average, even after adjusting for inflation, according to the Daily Herald.
The Illinois Community College Board collected data on full-time students (30 or more credits annually) from seven different community colleges in Illinois.
The schools included were the College of DuPage, Elgin Community College, Harper College, the College of Lake County, McHenry County College, Oakton Community College, and Waubonsee Community College.
Community college can be an affordable way to pursue higher education at a much lower price point than heading straight to a four-year college. However, a lack of state funding has led to tuition increases at the community colleges, an ICCB spokesman told the Herald. Illinois’ current funding level is at about 16 percent.
Out of the seven community colleges, Harper College in Palatine had the highest tuition rates. Full-time students paid an average of $4,231 per year. When asked to comment, school officials said this was due to an unusually large out-of-district school population. Out-of-district students are charged higher tuition rates.
In 2017, Harper increased tuition by $5.50 per credit hour. They also saw their enrollment rates for full-time students drop by over 1,000.
Out of all seven schools, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines experienced the biggest drop in enrollment. In 2017, their enrollment for full-time students dropped 14.1 percent.
But an Oakton spokesperson told the Herald that data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that community college enrollment typically declines during a strong economy when unemployment is low.
However, community colleges are focused on increasing their enrollment initiatives. Chris Gray, the vice president of academic affairs at McHenry County College (MCC), told the Herald they focus on keeping costs low, building relationships in the community, and focusing on the needs of their students. Out of all seven schools, MCC had the smallest tuition increase, with only a 5 percent bump up.
It is important to note that even with the increase in tuition rates, attending a community college is still a pretty good deal for most students. In 2017, the average tuition and fees were $3,618, which is low in comparison to most state schools. Many states also offer free or reduced tuition to some community colleges. You can also look into student loans or scholarships to attend community college.
Author: Mike Brown
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