FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Feb. 10, 2009 – INA – Responding to thousands of dollars in state cutbacks, Rend Lake College Board members voted Tuesday night to increase tuition by five dollars per credit hour starting Fall 2009.
RLC Interim President Charley D. Holstein expressed understanding for students facing hardships, but said the increase is necessary to weather cutbacks coupled with a bleak financial forecast for state funding of the community college system.
“One of our chief concerns is keeping Rend Lake College affordable for our students,” Holstein said. “Even with the increase, tuition at RLC is still $9 a credit hour less than the average among community colleges in Illinois and we charge no standard fees. We are still the most affordable option with a distinct regional reputation for quality.”
“There are rumors of more cuts,” added Larry West, Vice President of Finance and Administration at the college.
According to West, the average $320 more a degree-seeking student will pay over two years at RLC will help to offset $188,000 in FY09 state funding cuts already being felt at the college.
“Despite an increase in demand for education, the state is appropriating less money toward higher education,” he explained. “Also, when you have a recessionary economy, higher education tends to be anti-cyclical. During times like this, the college has a demand to provide more services due to individuals seeking retraining.”
With state and local economies in distress, the only alternative in the community college funding formula is to pass part of the cost on to the students, West added. The college is ardently acting on ways of making itself more efficient and cost-effective. These include tightening the belt on office and travel expenses, becoming more energy efficient and actively pursing federal and state grants to supplant the shortfall, according to West.
The weakened economy has underlined the priority of financial aid for RLC students. The typical student at RLC who pursues scholarships, merit-based tuition waivers and grants has a very good chance of receiving some form of financial aid that will never need to be paid back. More than 60 percent of those at RLC who fill out a federal Free Application for Financial Student Aid are awarded a Pell Grant, MAP Grant or both. Additionally, more than 50 percent of students who apply for scholarships or tuition waivers are successful.
“We work with the community to support our students and help as many students attend here as possible,” said Pat Kern, Chief Executive Officer of the RLC Foundation.
Both the number of Rend Lake students receiving scholarships and the total amount of scholarship dollars awarded were up this year from last, according to Kern. When factoring in academic and athletic scholarships, and tuition waivers, RLC students received more than $1 million for the 2008-09 year.
Add dual-credit classes where high school students enroll in tuition-free, approved, college-level courses and the aid climbs to nearly $2 million this year. Pell and MAP Grants totalled nearly $4.1 million for RLC students in the fall and spring, meaning RLC students are benefitting from more than $6.1 million for their educations – and that’s not all the aid they were awarded this academic year.
The deadline to apply for a scholarship through the RLC Foundation is Feb. 27. A scholarship application can also be submitted online by visiting www.rlc.edu/foundation. For outside scholarship support, which accounted for 276 scholarships this school year alone, Kern suggested talking to community members and school counselors. To apply for state and federal aid, pick up a FAFSA at the RLC financial aid department.
The tuition increase from $74 to $79 per credit hour will go into effect the Fall 2009 term at RLC. This increase will allow the college to remain competitive within its peer group schools while maintaining its stature as one of the most affordable community colleges in the state. Of the colleges in Illinois that have approved FY10 tuition increases already; eight have increased it by $5 (including RLC) and seven have approved an increase of more than that. Increases range from $2 to $10.
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