Students fight tuition costs

By Amy Goldhagen

With support from some Illinois legislators, students at public universities are fighting to freeze 1991 tuition costs despite a bleak outlook from the governor’s office.

NIU Student Regent Bob Tisch said he will endorse a tuition freeze. “It’s still early in the process, but it does not look too promising,” he said.

The Illinois Student Association, an organization representing student concerns to the state government, also has endorsed a state-wide tuition freeze at public universities.

ISA Field Director Brian Monohan said a tuition freeze is still feasible and hopes that by gaining student support the freeze will gain popularity in the state legislature.

“Students have the ability to influence education policy at the state level. They just have to get involved as an important part of the process,” Monohan said.

However, Richard Wagner, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, issued a statement saying Gov. James Thompson’s budget “falls $121 million short of the Board of Higher Education’s recommendations and falls $45 to $50 million short of what I would consider a basic maintenance budget to keep pace with inflation.”

IBHE originally requested $313 million for higher education.

Brian Hopkins, the Sangamon State University student regent, proposed a tuition freeze for Regency universities at the Board of Regents meeting last December. However, the board has not made a formal response.

“We’re not backing off one inch,” Hopkins said.

A freeze also is gaining support in the state legislature through Senate Bill 1507, introduced by Sen. Jeremiah Joyce, D-Chicago, Monohan said.

Although the bill prohibits tuition increases at public universities next year, there can be no action on the bill until after March. Monohan said the bill must go to the Rules Committee in April to decide if a freeze is possible.

If passed by the Rules Committee, the bill will go to the Senate Higher Education Committee, led by Joyce, who will vote on the proposal.

Monohan said the IBHE could still distribute its money so tuition increases would not be necessary.

“However, even if the IBHE endores a freeze, the Board of Regents has ignored their advice in the past and could do so again,” Monohan said.