Regents endorse Day of Action II

By Suzanne Tomse

Although the Board of Regents did not take a stand on whether or not to raise tuition next year, the board adopted a resolution Thursday endorsing the Illinois Student Association’s Day of Action set for April 13.

The resolution was presented to the Regents by Brian Hopkins, Illinois State University Student Regent. “The Illinois Student Association is involved in an aggressive statewide campaign to restore funding to higher education,” Hopkins said.

In addition to Day of Action II activities, the campaign includes writing letters to legislators, a telephone hotline to legislators and voter registration drives, he said.

Hopkins said about 1,000 students are expected to rally in Springfield on Day of Action II.

NIU Student Regent Nick Valadez said he will be working with the chancellor’s office of the Regents to develop policy to address the tuition issue.

Chancellor Roderick Groves said the tuition issue will be discussed by the board at their April meeting. However, he said he is “quite supportive to the resolution.”

Regent Chairman Carol Burns said she will recommend to the Illinois Board of Education that some type of criteria be developed to address the tuition issue in terms of the amount of instructional costs being paid by students.

Valadez also asked the Regents and other higher educational leaders to tell the “truth” about the situation facing Illinois in terms of low education funding.

“If education is the search for knowledge and knowledge is truth, then it is time for those of us in higher education to tell the truth in regard to this legislature,” he said.

Valadez criticized the legislature for being “fiscally irresponsible” because it is not providing adequate support for higher education funding.

“This legislature has completely abdicated its role in providing for the development of its citizens. This legislature has held the means of politics more important than the ends of politics—which is to serve the best interests of the people of Illinois,” he said.

ISU President LLoyd Watkins agreed with Valadez’s statements. However, he said the situation facing higher education is “worse” than what Valadez presented. “Over the last ten years, Illinois has tied dead last with West Virginia in terms of funding increases for higher education,” Watkins said.

In regard to the resolution supporting Day of Action II, Watkins said, “If I could vote, I would support this wholeheartedly.”

Students are aware of the need for a statewide tax increase to fund higher education, Hopkins said. “We are not going to sit back quietly and accept another tuition increase this year,” he said.

“Students have persisted and refused to abandon the quest for a college education in spite of having to pay drastically more to receive less,” Valadez said.

NIU President John LaTourette said if students face another tuition increase they will be paying about 45 to 50 percent of instructional costs. “I wish we didn’t have to talk at all about a tuition increase, but we have a legislature not responsive to the situation,” he said.

LaTourette said under Gov. James Thompson’s budget recommendations, calling for no new higher education funds, students will contribute up to 41 percent of instructional costs.

“I wonder whether the state has lost its commitment to public higher education? What does public higher education mean to the state? We are fighting for the existence (and) the concept of public higher education in Illinois,” LaTourette said.