More tuition means a less educated populace

Now surely nothing but universal education can counterwork the tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor,” Horace Mann once said.

In 1848, American educator Horace Mann spoke eloquently about the need to universally educate the country. He was not the first person to notice that, within our society, the institution of education was reserved for the rich and the powerful. Mann, in 1848 tells us that nothing, other than universal (public) education can counterwork the inequities of society. Without it, the elite would dominate and the poor would serve. Imagine if you will the thought of this. The sources of education reserved only for those who can afford its high cost and class standards. It was then as it would be today—under similar circumstances white, rich and male.

We, today, read this in the comfortable settings of our residence halls, apartments, houses, on our busses, and in our classrooms. I suggest that we not get so comfortable. As we move into the 21st century there is an assault on higher education as we have never seen it before. Worst of all, it is acting under those universal words: “in our best interests.” I submit to you that this is the clearest sign of a trend we have yet to see. It is the effort to privatize higher education in the state of Illinois. Oh, it will still be called “state” education, bear the name of the state, and its bureaucratic structure will remain the state, but we will pay for it.

On May 21, 1992 the Board of Regents approved a 10 percent overall tuition increase and a three-year phase-in of per-credit-hour charges up to and including 16 hours per semester. The Star has recently brought this to your attention for a second time in lieu of the Illinois Board of Higher Education proposal for a tuition freeze. It is acceptable to wonder why. But more importantly, it is imperative that we understand why.

The fiscal year 1993 budget for public universities approved by the IBHE provided for modest salary increases and a small amount of general cost and institutional support monies. It represented the MINIMUM needed to support public higher education in the state. At that time Gov. Jim Edgar proposed that public higher education remain at the FY92 spending levels. As a result, the funding gap for all the public universities in the state was $73 million. In effect, Edgar underfunded higher education by $73 million. Adjusting for inflation, the Regency System required—for FY93—$165,622,451. The good governor recommended $148,043,200. Guess which one we got? Indeed, the Regency System alone must find a way to cover for a shortfall of $17,619,251.

Despite this shortfall, the IBHE has called upon NIU and other state universities to “prioritize.” We are now being asked to slash our programs left and right. We are told, in great academic intellect by the chairman of the IBHE, “Hey, there’s too many lawyers,” and if you still want to go to a law school in the state, “there’s U of I and six private law schools to choose from.. oh.. and by the way.. let’s stop this graduate stuff going on at all these institutions.” In response to this, as should be expected by intelligent academics, our campus said, “You’ve got to be kidding!?”

As our tuition moves up in increments, we must be aware of what it means to have the responsibility for funding education. I hear many students saying, “Glad I’m graduating before I have to pay 47 percent more.” This, I do not understand. Are these people moving out of the state after graduation? Do they plan to settle here and have children? If they do, I hope the economy is good and the job pulls in lots of income, because when you send your children to NIU, it will cost about $25,000 a year and it will be called “Northern Institution of Undergraduates.”

We are really fighting a battle that has been fought before. We are trying to keep education available. Unfortunately we do not have support from our elected leader whose Lt. Gov. (Bob Kustra) audits us and recommends our abolition so that his task force co-chair can absorb all the power. Refusing to allow the butchering of our campus, the administration, faculty, and students come together for a brief shining moment and said, “Now surely nothing but universal education can counterwork the tendency of the domination of capital and the servility of labor.”