Southwestern Illinois College will hike tuition rates by $3 a credit hour starting this summer.
The increase will bring the cost of a credit hour to $114, according to SWIC spokesman Mike Fleming. He said the school’s tuition will rank 27th of Illinois’ 39 community colleges after the raise.
But Fleming said the increase will actually save students money on the cost of going to school, because part of the revenue will be used to improve Internet connectivity.
“In a student poll, 74 percent of respondents chose universal WiFi access so they can buy and use cheaper e-books on their personal electronic devices versus renting hardcover texts at a significantly higher price,” Fleming said.
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According to school leaders, who gave the example of required materials for an Internet course, buying a new book would cost $171, and renting it would be $112. But it costs only $52 to rent a digital version of the text, a savings of $59-$112 for texts per course taken.
The hike, which will produce about $680,000 in new revenue, will also cover:
• Making up for increased costs while district property tax revenue is flat
• Expected labor cost increases, as some unions are currently negotiating contracts with the school
• Projected increases in healthcare costs, amounting to $420,000
Fleming said about one-third of the tuition increase will cover the cost of the enhanced wireless Internet, or about $225,000.
According to the Illinois Community College Board, SWIC’s cost to attend went up 27.1 percent from $2,550 a semester in the 2010 fiscal year to $3,240 in the 2014 fiscal year, the most recent year for which figures were available. Those numbers represent the cost of tuition for 30 credit hours in a school year, plus expenses.
The state figures include other factors including how much it costs to live in the community near the school, cost of books and other associated factors, not just tuition.
That’s a raise of $690. During the same span, 20 of the state’s 39 community college districts raised their tuition more, and three raised it by the same amount.
The highest hike came from Heartland College, which raised its tuition $1,320 in that span. The Highland, Moraine Valley, South Suburban and Spoon River community college districts all also raised their rates more than $1,000 over the past five years.
State public four-year colleges average $285.60 per credit hour.
According to a 2014 ICCB study, SWIC students pay approximately $14,000 less for a two-year degree, $29,426, compared with the state average of $43,331 to attend school for two years.
SWIC Board Chairman Nick Mance and board members Kenneth Joseph, Harry Briggs, Robert Morton, Richard Roehrkasse, Phillip Smith and Gene Verdu voted unanimously in favor of the hike.