IBHE recommends tuition freeze, pay raises

By Jerry Lawrence

Students might not have to pay higher tuition next year if state and university officials accept the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s budget recommendations.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) passed budget recommendations at a Jan. 5 meeting that proposed a tuition freeze for students, a pay raise for university faculty and an increase in financial aid.

The proposed tuition freeze would be a welcome blessing for students at state universities after an average 14.2 percent tuition increase last year.

NIU tuition for this academic year was raised 21 percent for students taking more than 12 credit hours, despite last year’s IBHE budget proposal recommending a 4 percent increase.

The budget recommendations now will go to Gov. Jim Edgar and his staff for consideration before Edgar presents the state budget for 1994. The General Assembly will then vote and the budget proposals will again stand the risk of reduction or elimination.

Even if the budget proposals are accepted intact by Edgar and the legislature, NIU tuition might be raised by the Board of Regents.

The tuition freeze is part of a $2.1 billion total operating budget recommendation for all state public universities, a 3.8 percent, or $72 million, increase over last year’s appropriations.

NIU will receive $126.4 million from next year’s budget if it is approved by Edgar and the legislature. The apportionment would be 2.9 percent higher than last year’s.

IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said the tuition freeze along with the 3.8 percent operations budget increase complement the IBHE’s controversial Priorities, Qualities and Productivities (PQP) initiative.

“These recommendations, coupled with the PQP initiative, strengthen the quality of higher education programs and move forward a number of critical initiatives while recognizing that the state’s tax revenue resources are limited,” Wagner said.

PQP is an IBHE attempt to streamline the operations of the 12 public state universities. It has been criticized for having too much of an emphasis on output of degrees and demand for graduates with too little emphasis on program quality.

The IBHE slated 15 NIU programs for elimination in October including the law school.

If the budget is accepted by Edgar and the legislature, university faculty also will receive a 2.5 percent pay increase. The IBHE recommended that the pay increase be supplemented by an additional 2 to 3 percent from reallocated university funds.

NIU President John La Tourette recently announced a 2 percent increase in faculty pay made possible through reallocated funds.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) also could receive a 6.5 percent increase in funding. ISAC will receive $13.1 million and will increase the number of grant receiving students from 108,200 to 126,400.

University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry and ISAC Executive Director Larry Matejka raised objections to a new formula used by the IBHE in calculating student need.

Matejka told the IBHE at the Dec. 4 meeting that even with the proposed budgetary increase, some 30,000 students in need of financial assistance will not receive it.

NIU also received IBHE recommendation for $6.5 million to purchase equipment necessary for the completion of the Engineering Building. The money necessary to construct the Engineering Building was frozen by Edgar more than a year ago.

The IBHE also recommended $5.4 million for construction of an education facility in Rockford that will consolidate off-campus NIU classes in the Rockford area. The Rockford center would be similar to NIU’s Hoffman Estates Education Center if it receives legislative approval.

Another recommendation would provide $1.9 million for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

IBHE recommended capital renewal projects such as more “site improvement” in the King Memorial Commons, remodeling of Wirtz Auditorium and Cavan Auditorium in Gabel Hall could bring NIU another $1.4 million with legislative approval.