City Colleges in the clear after second vote on tuition hike

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Education reporter
  • February 05, 2009 @ 3:00 PM

The Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago today cast a vote for a 10 percent tuition hike, this time after outlining the planned vote on the meeting agenda to the public.

There was little discussion about the 10-percent increase — due to take effect this summer — before the unanimous vote.

“The district staff is recommending us exercising caution,” Finance Director Ken Gotsch said before the vote. “We’re re-communicating the resolution to set tuition and fees for programs.”

The board first approved the tuition increase at its December meeting but did not list the increase on its agenda beforehand. Officials have repeatedly said that was a “typographical error.”

The Daily News filed a complaint with the Illinois Office of the Attorney General following the December vote, and last week the office sent a letter to the district seeking more information on the first tuition vote.

CCC officials have not specifically said that today’s second vote on the same measure was motivated by last week’s letter, instead citing general concerns over whether proper notice was given the first time around.

While some students in December expressed dismay that the board had voted on raising tuition without giving them a chance to comment, no one appeared at today’s meeting to speak on the issue.

Administrators said in December and again today they had consulted with several student groups about the tuition increase, including student government representatives.

“There was really an extensive vetting process that we went through,” Gotsch said during today’s meeting.

After the meeting, CCC Board Chairman James Tyree said the district thought it had done enough work before the December vote to gather input from students.

“We thought that we did that from a very long process,” he says.

While legal experts have said the December vote was probably illegal because it was not clearly listed on the meeting’s agenda, the second vote today effectively makes moot the issue.

However, the Attorney General’s office has said it would like more information on how the district formats its agendas. Prior to this month, the public agendas were just six items long and were the same each month, with only the date at the top changed.

Tyree, who said he was aware of the Attorney General’s letter, said, “We take every suggestion to heart” when it comes to the thoroughness of board agendas.

Earlier this week, for the first time, the district posted a detailed agenda for today’s meeting that listed each item under consideration. Old agendas listed one line that read “Approval of board packet and amendment folder,” with no further explanation. The new agenda format listed 39 separate items in place of that one.

The change “will definitely be permanent,” Tyree says.

Peter Sachs is a Chicago-based journalist. He covers higher education for the Daily News.