By Howard Packowitz
NORMAL – A Heartland Community College task force on Tuesday recommended the Board of Trustees keep tax rates stable, but it’s not clear how that would impact students’ tuition and fees.
Heartland’s Financial Sustainability Task Force, which has been meeting since January, presented a series of proposals at a special trustees meeting. However, recommendations about tuition and fees will come later, according to President Keith Cornille.
“We’re going to continue to work on and see that piece fits in to this whole picture of the financial plan for the institution,” said Cornille.
“That’s the part we did not get to, but we’re asking for a continuation of the task force,” he added.
The task force will seek student input about tuition, and develop strategies and recommendations before December 1.
In February, trustees voted for an $8 per credit hour tuition hike, offset in part by a $3 per credit hour decline in student fees. Tuition has gone up annually at Heartland since 2015.
The panel urges trustees to maintain reserves equal to between 40 and 60 percent of the college’s operating fund.
Analysts at Standard & Poor’s indicated stronger reserves would help Heartland achieve the highest possible AAA credit rating, which would lower interest rates and make it cheaper for the college to borrow money. Heartland currently has a AA+ credit rating.
“When pressed, (analysts) gave those clear indicators that having a fund balance policy, having stronger reserves than we did at the time of our last rating, and then the volatility of the Illinois environment were all major factors,” said Doug Minter, Heartland’s Vice President of Business Services.
Large reserves act as a rainy day fund during lean financial times. Reserves also provide resources to take advantage of growth and investment opportunities for the college, President Cornille said.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at email@example.com