Tuition may continue to rise

By Peter Schuh

NIU students could see their tuition bills go up next year and the University of Illinois has been given part of the blame.

U of I administration announced this semester that it intends to raise tuition between 5.5 and 11 percent in the 1994-95 academic year. The decision has come a semester early in comparison to the traditional practice of universities to announce tuition increases in the spring semester.

The decision could affect how much the Illinois Board of Higher Education recommends Illinois public universities should increase their tuition in the coming year, according to Roderick Groves, chancellor of the Board of Regents.

The IBHE regulates and makes recommendations on public university activities statewide. The Regents is the governing board for NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.

The IBHE’s recommendation will have a large impact on whether or not the Regency System—and, in turn, NIU—will see a tuition increase and how large it will be, Groves said.

“The Board of Regents bases a decision about tuition on various factors in addition to the particular needs of the universities,” Groves said. “Obviously, one major factor in that is what the Board of Higher Education recommends.”

There are three steps to the traditional tuition increase.

In January the IBHE recommends a statewide tuition increase—or lack thereof—for Illinois’ public universities.

During the spring semester the universities’ governing boards determine their intended tuition increases and formulate legislation based on it.

Near the end of the spring semester, the Illinois legislature allocates tuition money back to the universities via their determination of what the universities deserve.

Groves said U of I’s recommended tuition increase could affect this process because it has been announced before the IBHE has formulated its recommendation.

“Now, one (university) system has decided to set a tuition increase of a certain amount before the Board of Higher Education has made their recommendation,” he said. “What does the board do? Does it recommend a (statewide) increase of a similar amount, an increase of less than that, or a higher increase?”

The IBHE has said that as part of its Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative, it expects universities to see gains in state tax support, which meet the inflation rate but do not surpass it.

U of I’s 11 percent increase would be more than double the rate of inflation.

However, IBHE Deputy Director Ross Hodel said the IBHE encourages universities to inform students and parents early about tuition increases.

Groves argued this philosophy is a good idea when taken in moderation.

He agreed that he’d like to notify students and parents as early as possible about a raise in tuition but said fall is much too early to guess what the state’s financial climate will be in the next year.

“Which would you prefer, an increase that is higher than it needs to be, or a year’s notice?” Groves said. “It would be foolish to try to predict (an increase) at this point.”

If NIU does see an increase for next year, it will follow two years of sharp tuition increases.

“Obviously it would be hard on students, and I’m very sympathetic to that,” Groves said. “But higher education has been caught between a rock and a hard place since the legislature has failed to provide us with the appropriate funding.”

Hodel said the IBHE recommended no tuition increase last year. U of I and the Regency System were the only public universities to falter from that guideline.