NORMAL — Spring enrollment looks like it will be level or even a bit up from a year ago at Heartland Community College, but that good news was tempered by “wild cards” in a report to the board at its meeting Tuesday night.
Doug Minter, vice president of business services, told the board it looks like an anticipated drop in enrollment will not occur this spring, but “we're not out of the woods by any means.”
Among the variables facing Heartland as it finishes this fiscal year and prepares its budget for the next are possible cuts in state support, potential increases in personnel costs and uncertain property tax revenue, Minter said.
Traditionally, the board decides in February what tuition will be for the following academic year.
Last year, the board left tuition unchanged.
“Any change we would do, I think, would be a modest change,” Heartland President Rob Widmer said. “We want to limit any increase, but we also want to be realistic.”
Board member Jeff Flessner asked, “Does it make sense to increase tuition at a time when enrollment is level or declining?”
Widmer said a gradual or modest increase is easier for students to absorb, and tuition is only one factor influencing enrollment.
“It's more a function of the nature of the economy,” he said.
A longer-range problem looming for the district is what's called the “equalization grant.” This is money from the state based on a complex formula involving the district's property tax base and enrollment, Widmer explained.
This year, Heartland fell below the threshold for that grant, which amounts to about $50,000, he said.
If the district falls below the trigger point again, the district will not be allowed to use a locally generated property tax called the "equity tax," according to Widmer. That could amount to about $1.7 million in lost revenue, he said.
The impact of that lost revenue would not be felt until fiscal year 2017.