JJC board OKs student fee hike
By Bob Okon email@example.com July 30, 2013 9:46PM
Updated: September 1, 2013 6:43AM
The Joliet Junior College Board on Tuesday approved a $4 hike in student fees with little discussion but a bit of opposition.
The vote was 4-2 to raise the capital assessment fee that will pay off bonds used to finance two major projects. The board also held a public hearing on a $70 million bond sale, which will go to a vote on Aug. 13, to fund the construction and restructure old debt.
No students came to the meeting to voice opposition or support for increasing the capital assessment fee to $21 per credit hour. The $4 increase is intended to pay off the entire bond issue over 25 years.
Trustee Barbara Adams said it was bad timing to initiate the fee in the upcoming spring semester.
“I’m opposed to that,” Adams said, contending that tuition and fees should be stable throughout the school year. “You have parents and you have students who have planned for the school year. ... I think it’s wrong to do it in the middle of the year.”
Adams was joined by Trustee Tina Markley in opposing the higher fee, although Markley did not discuss her reasons for voting against it. Voting in favor were board chairman Andrew Mihelich along with vice chairman Jeff May and trustees Susan Klen and Robert Wunderlich. Trustee Michael O’Connell was absent. Student Trustee Keith Bryant also voted for the fee hike, although his vote is advisory.
There was no other discussion on raising the fee, and no one commented during a public hearing on the bond sale. The $70 million issue goes beyond the $45 million estimated cost of the two major projects — a multipurpose building on the main campus and expansion of the Romeoville campus.
College spokeswoman Kelly Rohder said JJC will use the other $25 million to restructure bond debt from 2008 and possibly lower the capital assessment fee in the future.
Rohder said college officials all along had intended to sell $70 million in bonds, although in the weeks before the Tuesday vote the bond issue was repeatedly pegged at $45 million. She said the $45 million figure was used because that’s the estimated cost of the two projects.
Rohder also said the fee hike and bonds approved Tuesday will not be used to cover the costs of the building under construction in downtown Joliet that will be used primarily for the college’s culinary arts and hospitality programs.
JJC has been waiting on $25 million in state money to cover the full costs of the $58 million building downtown. Even though JJC officials say the college is on the top of a list of projects awaiting grant money for community colleges, the prospect of getting the $25 million appears increasingly dim because of the state’s financial troubles.
JJC officials said the college has savings and, if necessary, could turn to other means to complete the downtown building that’s part of a 2008 master plan for the college.
The college board this year approved a 2013 master plan that includes the two projects to be financed with the new bonds. The multipurpose building on the main campus in Joliet will provide new athletic facilities along with banquet and conference space. College officials said space is needed for graduation ceremonies, which have been staged at Lewis University in Romeoville for the last three years.
Meanwhile, the JJC campus in Romeoville will be expanded to accommodate fast-growing enrollment there. College officials said enrollment has grown by 45 percent in Romeoville from 2002 to 2012, and JJC plans to expand that campus.