Tuition hike requested

By Eric Krol

The Illinois Board of Higher Education unveiled its budget requests for next year and a 4 percent tuition hike heads the list.

The IBHE, which governs state colleges and universities, met last Tuesday and voted to approve its budget wish list which will now be sent to Gov. Jim Edgar. Edgar’s budget proposal will come out in March.

A total increase of $56.3 million in funds for state universities was requested. The IBHE recommendations slate $125.8 million next year for NIU, about a 4 percent increase over last year’s state appropriation of $121.2 million.

A 4 percent tuition jump was requested as well. This would raise tuition by $72 at NIU, bringing the total to $1,872 per year for an undergraduate student.

A 4.5 percent salary increase for faculty and staff was also requested, or about $4 million at NIU.

In past years the IBHE has requested double-digit funding increases from state coffers to show the great amount of need in state higher education. However, this year’s request, which will now be sent to Gov. Jim Edgar, only asks for a 3.9 percent funding increase.

“We are changing the way we do business,” IBHE Chairman Arthur Quern said. “We are at a watershed time,” Quern added.

The current bleak state financial picture and Quern’s stressing of prioritization contributed to this new approach, which IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said he supported.

However, other higher education officials disagreed with the new budget request formula.

With a 3 percent cut imminent from Springfield, NIU President John La Tourette said the resulting lower figure from this year will become the base for the budget next year. “(The reduction) will become permanent and little or no increase will result next year,” he said.

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said although it was a difficult year for crafting a budget, there has been a shift onto the backs of students.

Board of Governors Chancellor Thomas Layzell said he came from the old school of budget making which shows need, but added, “We’ll probably be lucky to have it six months down the road.”

“But if we ask for less, my fear is that they’ll think we need less,” said Brian Monahan, IBHE student member.

La Tourette said, “I’d be realistic, but at the same time we have to show need.”

The IBHE also rubber-stamped the list of capital improvement projects for next year. NIU landed two projects on the list—$6.5 million in engineering building equipment in the number eleven slot and $5.4 million for the Rockford branch campus at the number 22 position.

La Tourette said, “I’m not very optimistic because very few of the projects will be authorized.”