Calculation method stays the same

By Ken Goze

NIU’s system for calculating chargeable credit hours for student fees will remain basically unchanged, despite overestimations that contributed to the Student Association Mass Transit Board’s nearly $50,000 deficit.

Nick Noe, director of Institutional Research for Finance and Planning, said the system, used to calculate enrollment made primarily for tuition increases, is reasonably sound and accurate.

“It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it’s not off by that much either,” Noe said. The system’s main weakness is its inability to account for changes in enrollment during the school year, he said.

“These forecasts are made on the tenth day of the semester, and are given to the Illinois Board of Higher Education for tuition purposes, leaving no allowance for changes in enrollment,” Noe said. Fee-supported groups using the projections must allow for slight inaccuracies, he said.

SAMBT Chairman Dave Pack said the 2.2 to 2.5 percent overestimation in chargeable credit hours was not the only cause of the board’s deficit.

While last year’s leftover funds were reduced by the miscalculation, causing SAMBT’s initial $36,000 deficit, other factors, including fuel price fluctuations, increased that figure.

Pack said NIU’s enrollment forecasts are reasonably accurate, but added even a small error can wreak havoc with SAMBT’s $1.2 million budget. “Just as a reminder, a three percent miscalculation throws us off by about $30,000,” Pack said.

Although SAMBT’s main priority is eliminating the deficit and creating a $50,000 cushion for next year, Pack said the $2.42 per credit hour bus fee probably will not increase much above its proposed $2.90 per credit hour. “I don’t see it going over $3.00 an hour,” he said.

Other steps being taken to reduce SAMBT’s deficit include changes in the 7-9 route combination scheduled for this spring, which are expected to save about $8,500.

Pack said the board has decided to temporarily remove one bus from service freed up by the combination, rather than place it on either route 3 or 4 as originally proposed.

SA Treasurer Bruce Williams said the miscalculation in credit hours affected the SA Activity Board’s budget, but caused no serious difficulties because of an “extensive cushion” of $30,000 carried over from last year.

Williams said he is uncertain about the need for an increase in the activity fee, now $1.68 per hour for undergraduates, 68 cents per hour for graduate students and $1.20 per hour for law students.

Fewer problems with the forecasts are anticipated this year, Williams said, because Noe’s office issued a memo to fee-supported groups predicting an enrollment decline and explaining how to plan around the forecast’s inaccuracies.