MALTA – Brittany Remington knew she’d have to pay her own way through school, which is why she chose Kishwaukee College over a four-year university.
However, with tuition costs on the rise and her scholarships set to expire next year, Remington, a 19-year-old nursing student from DeKalb, said she is worried she may no longer be able to avoid taking out loans.
“In the nursing program, you have to dedicate a lot of time to studying, and I don’t have that much time to work,” Remington said. “I only work every other weekend, so it’s going to be a little more difficult to try to pay for that.”
The college’s board of trustees voted in March to approve a $10-a-credit-hour tuition increase along with increasing the student technology fee by $5 a credit hour. The $30 online course fee was simultaneously eliminated.
The combined cost for tuition and fees in 2018 will be $156 a credit hour. Since 2014, this amount has gone up by $23, an increase of about 20.4 percent over five years. Students taking 12 or more credit hours are considered full time.
Enrollment is down about 6.7 percent this semester compared with the previous spring semester, with 3,130 students enrolled this spring, records show.
The tuition rates at Kish have increased by $10 a credit hour the past two years, going from $119 a credit hour in 2016 to $129 a credit hour in 2017 and, most recently, to $139 a credit hour in 2018, according to data provided by the college.
President Laurie Borowicz said that the college is aware of the burden an increase in tuition places on students, especially when many chose to enroll in community college because they have limited resources.
The lack of a state budget for the past two years has put institutions around the state such as Kishwaukee College in a situation where tough decisions must be made to continue to function, she said.
“Our ultimate hope is that at some point we will get a state budget,” Borowicz said. “Then we can balance our books and better serve our students.”
Borowicz said the tuition increase was not the first or only choice to cut costs.
The college cut expenses by more than $2 million last year, from reducing staffing and deferring capital projects to spending less on supplies, travel and utilities.
Jordan Damisch, 23, of Kirkland, also a nursing student at Kishwaukee College, said students in programs such as nursing and engineering have many extra costs, making an increase in tuition even more painful.
“Currently I get loans, and sometimes that barely even covers everything,” he said. “At the beginning of the semester in nursing, you pay $1,200 to $1,300 just in supplies, and then you pay about $3,000 in tuition costs, and that’s not including your uniform, or gas to get to clinicals.”
Borowicz said the college is making an effort to ensure students receive the maximum amount of financial aid.
This includes making sure students know how to apply for state and federal aid and working with donors to increase scholarships from the Kishwaukee College Foundation, which typically awards $250,000 annually.
“We’ve reduced the staffing supported by the foundation, so that more can go to students,” she said.
In fiscal 2018, the college is expecting 7 percent of its revenue to come from state aid, down from 12 percent in fiscal 2017 and 23 percent in fiscal 2016, according to data from the college.
“Given what’s happened over the last two years, we believe we need to be conservative,” Borowicz said.
Borowicz said the college is aiming to gradually reduce its dependence on state funding to ensure its long-term financial independence and stability.
Vincent Luckett, 20, of Cortland said he is not yet sure what the increase in tuition will mean for him as a student, but it is not making the struggle to pay for school any easier.
“Going to Kishwaukee already is really expensive for being a community college,” he said. “I really don’t see the need or the fairness of [increasing tuition].”
Luckett has been a full-time student at Kishwaukee College for two years. This semester he is taking 14 credit hours while also working 14 to 17 hours a week. He plans to be enrolled and graduate in the fall semester.
He said assistance he has received in the past through the state Pell and MAP grants has been helpful, although other necessities, such as books, can also be a financial strain.
“You buy books at full price; sometimes it can be $400 to $500, but at the end of the semester, you only get $40 to $70 back,” he said.
Luckett said he has heard classmates talk about commuting to cheaper community colleges; however, he is not worried about being able to support himself until graduation in the fall, when he plans to transfer to a university.
“If worst comes to worst, I’ll take out a loan,” he said.