Pointing fingers again

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves has been hinting this semester that there could be another tuition increase this year for NIU. His claim, as usual, has been that higher education in Illinois has been underfunded by the state, and that the universities have to increase their tuition just to keep pace with inflation.

However, figures obtained from Groves’ own staff indicate that the Regents system has raised tuition beyond inflation.

When funding increases in state dollars and tuition are combined, the Regents had a 66.6 percent increase over a 10- year period (fiscal years 1983-1993), or an 8.6 percent increase over higher education’s inflation counter.

How did the Regents schools end up with more money now than they did 10 years ago? Well, state dollars only went up 39 percent, not even keeping up with inflation. But students’ tuition blew through the roof, increasing by 156.9 percent.

NIU had an increase of 60.2 percent, still above inflation. It should be noted that this percentage does not include last year’s huge tuition increase.

Groves continues to deny the validity of these figures, even though they came from his own office. With the budget process just beginning, Groves is posturing for more state dollars, and admitting these statistics to be true would only hurt his cause.

His argument is that, yes tuition has skyrocketed, but it is because of a lack of state funding. This is true, to a degree, but the fact is Groves and the universities took advantage of the situation to milk students for all they were worth.

And now, after 10 years of state underfunding and student looting, the universities have more money than they did 10 years ago. What’s interesting is that no one really seems to know where the money went. The universities do not, perceptibly, do more now than they did 10 years ago. Faculty salaries didn’t keep pace with inflation until the last few years, when they were given several pay increases. The truth is since the universities have been keeping up with inflation all along, faculty salaries also should have kept pace without much difficulty, but they didn’t and NIU has had to have several large increases recently to make salaries more competitive.

There is no explanation for why the universities continue to bellyache that they don’t have enough money and underpay faculty, when they actually have more money now, with similar responsibilities. The universities have had an increase in administrative responsibility and costs, but not to the degree that all the money would be sucked dry.

Groves had better wise up, because the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the state legislature are bound to figure it out, especially considering the IBHE has created a committee to study the affordability of higher education.

While Groves and the rest of the Regents continue to point fingers at the state legislature for causing budget shortfalls, these figures seem to show the Regents have not been keeping spending to its most efficient minimum.

It’s facts like these that the IBHE might use to sharpen its ax, and eliminate the Regents.