SPRINGFIELD — University of Illinois trustees voted today to raise tuition for new students at the school by 6.9 percent this fall.
By Andrew Thomason
SPRINGFIELD — Tuition for new students at the University of Illinois is going up by 6.9 percent this fall.
The school's Board of Trustees approved the increase Wednesday, citing the state's financial troubles as the main factor behind the decision.
The increase translates into about $359 more to attend a semester at the school's Champaign-Urbana campus; $315 more per semester at the Chicago campus; and $281 more per semester at the Springfield campus. The bump also will result in about a $22 million swelling in the university's bank account.
Higher tuition for new students comes on top of room and board increases approved earlier this year.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan called the increase "pretty modest." He painted a dire picture of what would happen without the extra money.
"It'd be very, very hard to staff our classes, keep class sizes the way they are," Hogan said. "The most expensive thing about college is the fifth, sixth and seventh years. If you're not putting your classes together in the right sequence because you haven't got the faculty to do it, or you're overloading the classroom, and students have to wait another year to take a class … that's very expensive."
Hogan said that while enrollment has increased, the state's funding has fallen off. Next fall will be the first time in history that income from tuition will make up a larger revenue stream than money from the state.
In addition to state funding remaining flat this year under Gov. Pat Quinn's budget, the state owes the school more than $447 million in previous funding. Walter Knorr, the university's chief financial officer, said the state is seven months behind in its payments to the school.
The state also owes another $43 million for student financial aid. About half the students in the University of Illinois system receive some form of financial aid, either from the state or federal government. Knorr said in a worst-case scenario in which the state couldn't pay the $43 million, the university would assume that cost.
Tuition is much more reliable. The U of I says, essentially, for every dollar of tuition that comes in, the university gets about 80 cents.
Board member Tim Koritz, whose children are enrolled in the university, said the increase is a necessity, but the school might want to look at other avenues, like shrinking some academic programs, to make up the lack of funding from the state.
"We have to keep in mind that every time we raise tuition, we may be pricing certain potential students out of the ability to attend our universities," Koritz said.
Hogan said he agreed and that the university was doing what the state won't, setting aside more and more funds for financial aid.
Not all of the tuition increase could go to just maintaining services. At least some of the extra cash should be used to increase pay for employees, said Knorr. This would be the first time in three years for any kind of salary bump, he said. Furloughs also are not being discussed for next . Faculty and staff did have furloughs this academic year.
"I think we really need to — in combination with the tuition, dealing with the state situation and also our cost cutting efforts — we need to basically … to put to a meaningful compensation package as part of this 2012 budget," Knorr said.
Representatives of the university appeared before a state Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year to talk about their upcoming budget. They are expected to be back in Springfield next month for a similar hearing in the state House of Representatives.
Knorr said that a lot could change in the coming months.
"The bottom line is we have two months to go in the legislative process. How this is going to roll out, both for the financial aid as well as the appropriations, as well as benefits as well as pensions, it's all out there," he said.