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State budget crisis forces PSC board to raise tuition for fall 2017

The Prairie State College (PSC) District 515 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 PSC and higher education institutions across the state.
The current tuition rate for students from Homewood and Flossmoor is $158.50 per credit hour. The new rate in the fall will be $171 per credit hour. This new rate also reflects a $5 increase in the tech fee per credit hour. The new tuition rate for a 3-hour course will be $513 and a 4-hour course will be $684, unless another extra fee applies, such as a lab fee, internet course fee, etc.
Discussion during the April 13 meeting focused primarily on quality, with trustees addressing the need for PSC 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 in tuition was warranted.
After the meeting, Board Chair Jacqueline Agee commended the board. 
“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.” 
“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.
“What is most important to the college are our students and the community that we serve,” PSC President Terri L. 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.”
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, Winfree said.
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 in 2015 when the college closed the Children’s Learning Center facility, she explained. 
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 administration has started a number of new initiatives in an effort to counteract the lack of state funding. 

The college has developed partnerships with agencies to provide cost-effective, efficient programs that offer high-level quality in line with the college’s goals, the president said. This includes KLLM Transport Services, which operates a truck-driving training program that offers employment opportunities to its graduates. 

Additionally, a National Able Network office was opened on campus to create a one-stop center for employment resources, as well as bring in additional revenue. 
The Community and Economic Development Department has brought in an increased number of students and corporate training clients and increased the number of events hosted on campus, which helped increased revenue.
A Resource Development Committee has been directed to find alternative funding sources, and an alumni committee has been established to re-engage PSC graduates. 
Winfree also has begun an awareness campaign intended to bring community members who have never visited or have not visited the campus in many years, to help educate them about the many programs and opportunities offered at the college.
Winfree joined with students and public college and university presidents several times in Springfield to educate legislators about the hardships many colleges are experiencing because of the lack of state funding.

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