Tuition increase sent to Regents

By Louise Koryta

The dark clouds over the Holmes Student Center set the mood yesterday as the Joint Facility/Finance Committee reluctantly approved to formally recommend a $150 tuition increase to the Board of Regents.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves recommended to the committee that “tuition be increased by $150 at Northern Illinois University and Illinois State University commencing in January and $100 at Sangamon State commencing at the same time.”

NIU President John LaTourette said tuition for non-Illinois residents would be boosted by $450.

The board will vote on the recommendation today. Regent Clara Fitzpatrick said she does not expect there to be any dissenting votes, but both the Regents and student Regents are opposed to hiking the rates.

“Talk about being between a rock and a hard place—we’re there,” Fitzpatrick said.

Committee Chairman Milton McClure said the chancellor’s office was instructed to consider all possible alternatives, such as cutting costs at the Regency schools.

Groves said the tuition increase was the only realistic answer, especially when the state cannot be counted on for support. He told the committee, “Don’t think we’d come to you with this recommendation if we thought there was prospective state funding.”

Committee members agreed that the increase is the only way to combat the $9.1 million reduction in the Regency system’s base budget, which resulted from Gov. James Thompson’s failed June tax increase proposal. NIU’s share of that decrease was $3.3 million.

“The result (of the budget cut) is we find ourselves with added burdens and significantly less money,” Groves said.

e said one of the burdens facing the Regency system is unavoidable cost increases, which already is evident at all three Regency universities.

iring is the primary source of unavoidable cost increases because it is conducted in the spring and implemented in the fall, Groves said. This means hiring agreements are made before the level of appropriation is known, he said.

LaTourette said it was necessary to put the university in a high risk position by staffing as much as possible because enrollment increased by 880 over last year.

An enrollment freeze also will be necessary in order to bear the brunt of the budget cut. He said, “we’ll not be able to admit as much as normal even with a tuition increase.”

Fitzpatrick said enrollment will decrease because of the freeze but also because students will no longer be able to afford the tuition rate.

This means the projected amount of funds from the tuition increase might be too high because there will be fewer students paying the additional money, she said.

NIU Student Regent Nick Valadez said if relief from the state is found when the general assembly reconvenes in October, tuition should be decreased.

owever, Groves said the budget cut is a permanent one and not a condition that will go away next year. He said “the question of tuition would come back to this table” if state relief was given. “We’d factor that in to the whole tuition equation.”

Students are “paying for things that are inherent in the original tuition cost,” and they assume when they originally paid tuition “the state would provide the professors … they (the students) think they’ve already paid their burden,” Valadez said.

As part of his efforts to keep a situation like this from recurring, Valadez said a resolution should be drawn up so “the board fully comprehends the impact” of the increase.

Committee members and Regents suggested lobbying in Springfield in October in order secure some type of state relief.

LaTourette said he will be lobbying at the capitol when the general assembly reconvenes Oct. 20-21 and Nov. 4-5. He said he had been there half of June trying to garner support for Thompson’s tax increase.

egent Harry Wellbank said, “If everyone affected by this wrote a letter to their congressman, we’d get the money (from the state).”

A letter-writing campaign already was attempted at NIU, but Valadez said there will be another attempt. This type of lobbying is the only realistic method, he said.

ISU Student Regent Chuck Sutton said, “The bottom line is more pressure needs to be put on the general assembly. We need action and we need it in October.”

Tuition increases at other public universities in Illinois have been speculated, but action has been taken only by the University of Illinois. Students there will be paying an additional $150.