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A Publication of WTVP

Today, state government officials are talking about changing the formula for funding community colleges. The community colleges of Chicago want the funding formula to change to provide them with more money. They want the Illinois Community College Board to change the equalization formula to benefit their colleges at the expense of all other community colleges. With limited funds, this can only mean the downstate colleges will be hurt-badly.

If Chicago gets its way, ICC stands to lose more than $3 million. Such a loss would require ICC to at least double the tuition at the college. The financial impact for students and families who chose to attend ICC would be drastic. That's not just bad news for ICC students; it's bad news for the local economy, as well. The college won't be able to afford to employ as many faculty and staff. Tuition prices will continue to skyrocket, and more and more students will be priced out of a college education. That's hardly a scenario Peoria wants in building a knowledge-based workforce.

The impact reaches far beyond the ICC classrooms and halls. Community colleges fuel the local economy in three important ways.

First, community colleges save students money and have the potential to increase disposable income. Last year, students who eventually will seek bachelor's degrees completed more than 76,000 credit hours at Illinois Central College. Total tuition for these credit hours was roughly $4.6 million. If students were to take these courses at one of the state's four-year colleges, total tuition costs would be around $12.8 million. If these same students enrolled in classes at private institutions, the cost would be $37.8 million.

The money students save can go a long way toward further education. For each year a student attends a community college, he or she saves, on average, enough money in tuition to pay for about 19 hours at a state university or about 26 hours at a private university. That means students who complete their first two years at ICC will save enough money to pay for all of their junior and part of their senior years at a state or private university.

The $4.6 million dollars students contribute in ICC tuition, as well as the local tax revenues and state funding, stay in this community. These dollars pay the faculty and staff at the college, who, in turn, spend their money in the greater Peoria area. This money fuels the local economy by paying for the utilities, supplies, and other services the college uses in serving the student. ICC's operations touch local food suppliers, insurance companies, banks, credit unions, maintenance product suppliers, gas stations, caterers, accounting firms, and much more. In addition, students who stay in our community spend money in our community. They buy food and clothing here, go to movies and restaurants here, and support the local economy because they live and work here, as well as going to school here.

Finally, community colleges provide opportunities for students who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend college. Scholarships and grants applied at ICC purchase about three times more credit hours than they do at state universities and about eight times more than they do at private colleges and universities in our state.

While we're all concerned about the financial wellbeing of the state, we also need to be vigilant in representing our local interests to our state government. We hope our community, as well as our legislators, will work on behalf of our students and community to maintain the financial resources ICC needs to keep the college a viable contributor to our local economy and the wellbeing of our area. IBI

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