Committee overlooked by students

By Vickie Snow

Students might have let their own destinies slip through their hands by not clammering for lower tuition at state universities Wednesday.

Only five students bothered to take the time to talk with a committee of legislators, educators and students about tuition. The Joint Committe on College Tuition was searching for comments on NIU’s tuition and what burden, if any, it is putting on students.

“If students start voting and writing letters, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll listen. Students’ destinies are in their own hands,” said Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education created the committee to study tuition policies in an effort to avoid an increase.

Until the committee presents its report to the IBHE in January, a tuition freeze is in effect.

NIU Student Association President Robert McCormack said students can be heard by doing several things. First, they can register to vote and follow through with it, he said.

Second, McCormack said students “should very actively demonstrate their position on this issue.”

Students can write state legislators who influence such policy-making decisions as setting tuition, he said. The SA office can provide relative information.

In written testimony to the committee, McCormack and NIU Student Regent Jim Mertes wrote, “The responsibility for the loss of (potential) students can be layed directly at the feet of the state legislators who lack sufficient concern or have absolutely no concern for higher education in Illinois.”

The report said students often attend college at more affordable states, citing Illinois as 42nd in terms of tax dollars for higher education.

The SA is looking into ways to encourage student activism, McCormack said.

Sheila Heitzig, chairman of the IBHE’s Student Advisory Committee, said “the government isn’t paying attention to students because we don’t give them reason to.”

“I want my kids to be able to go to college, but if things keep going the way they are, there’s no way they will,” she said.

Although many students don’t care about tuition because their parents pay for college, Heitzig said the fight “can’t be on a personal basis—it’ll take a big united effort.”

Tuition, excluding fees, at NIU has been $857 per semester since Fall 1988, when it was raised from $732 in Spring 1988, according to the NIU Bursar’s Office.