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Flat budget may still mean pain for Illinois’ community colleges

By Benjamin Yount   Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ community colleges likely won’t lose any state money in the next state budget. But even a flat budget from Springfield could hurt because the schools have been shorted in the past.

Lawmakers were as blunt as they could be with community college officials Wednesday morning, saying the best that the colleges can hope for is the same funding as this year.

But Ellen Andres of the state’s Community College Board said the state still owes $400 million to community colleges across the state, and what money has been paid from Springfield has been late.

Andres said most schools are now relying on tuition, which is sure to go up, to get by.

“We have increased class size. We have renegotiated (contracts). We have done everything we can at this point. We don’t want to cut enrollment or turn people away,” Andres said .

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said that since the state has paid communities colleges less over the years, the schools have had to charge more in tuition. But Phelps said that can’t continue much longer.

“The bigger universities have almost priced themselves out, and people are turning to community colleges to get a better job,” he said.

Phelps, like many other lawmakers, note the state is broke, so the budget will be tight. But he said he hopes to keep community colleges from losing too much.

Andres said the numbers tell the story.  Average community college tuition nearly doubled between 2002 and 2010, while enrollments swelled. The average tuition stood at $1,700 in 2002 and climbed to $3,300 in 2010

Right now, 69 percent of students in college in Illinois are at a community college. But Andres points out that community colleges receive only 14 percent of the state’s spending on higher education. 

Look for more coverage on this issue later today on Illinois Statehouse News.

Watch more from Andres on community colleges.

Originally reported by Illinois Statehouse News. Read the original article here.

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