Where has it all gone?

In the last 10 years, students have seen skyrocketing tuition rates. Figures obtained from NIU’s governing board, the Board of Regents, show a 160 percent increase in tuition for the three Regency schools.

Higher education administrators have claimed that the increases were to offset increased costs and a lack of state funding for public universities.

However, the Regency system experienced, as a whole, a total appropriation increase of 72 percent. This increase is 14 percent above the Higher Education Price Index, the inflation counter for universities. The HEPI includes costs like faculty salaries, and how much they’ve gone up.

While state funding was about 12 percent below the HEPI, the fact of the matter is that this was more than made up for with tuition increases. And the Regency schools now have substantially more real dollars than they did 10 years ago.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education’s new committee on affordability hopefully will find out where this money is going.

The IBHE should be congratulated for being concerned with an area most higher education officials ignore or dismiss—the affordability and accessibility of public higher education.

Yes, state support has been lacking somewhat, but the universities have used this as an excuse to loot the students at every possible opportunity. Not only did students pay for what the state couldn’t, excessive tuition increases amounted to decent funding increase for universities. The universities continue to complain that they don’t have enough money; where has it all gone?

The committee will study how affordable higher education is and if students are being taken advantage of.

Committee Chairman Rey Brune seems displeased with the rising cost of higher education. In an interview Monday, Brune scoffed at attempts by universities to use fees and tuition to make up “reallocations.” He sighted Illinois State University at Normal as an example. ISU reallocated $100,000’s out of its athletic program and then increased student fees to cover the cost. NIU tried to do the same thing, but failed when confronted with strong student opposition last year.

Perhaps one result from the committee will be that the universities no longer will duck (or try to duck) their responsibilities—passing the buck along to the students in the process.