Tuition overtakes funding

By Courtney Klemm

For the first time in the history of the University, student tuition exceeds the amount of money the school receives from state funding at the Champaign-Urbana campus this school year.

“The state is going through a hard time,” said Hassen Al-Shawaf, senior in business and member of the Illinois Student Senate and Tuition Policy Advisory Committee. “There is a low priority to higher education.”

Al-Shawaf said he thinks the decreased funding is a big source of concern for the University.

“The quality of education is threatened with less state support,” he said. “It will affect the school very adversely. The students aren’t in a position to accept tuition increases year after year.”

The tuition for the current year totaled approximately $277 million as opposed to state appropriations of about $253 million, according to the budget summary of operations for fiscal year 2005.

Al-Shawaf said as the state cut back its financial support, students voted to raise tuition in a survey sent out through a mass-mail.

According to Adam Blahnik, senior in LAS and member of the Illinois Student Senate Budget Committee, 8,800 students responded to the survey. Of those, 52 percent said they would support a 9 percent increase in tuition and 48 percent of the students said they would not. However, only 33 percent of the students who responded said they would also support an 11 percent increase in tuition, while 67 percent voted against it.

Continued decrease of state funding could have a negative impact, said Bill Adams, associate provost.

“It could cause us to become more reliant on tuition and I’m not sure that’s real healthy,” Adams said. “Historically, we have been partners with the state and that has helped build a stronger University. We are a better institution when the state partners with us. There are limits to what we can do without enough funding.”

Al-Shawaf said he feels relying on tuition as the main source of funding makes the University less accessible to some students.

“It definitely would push students out from attending,” he said. “We need to balance accessibility and quality. If state funding keeps decreasing, accessibility or quality will be sacrificed.”

The lack of state funding has been part of a national trend over past years, Blahnik said.

“I think political (officials) are valuing social issues like welfare,” he said. “Why take the time to (get money) for state supported schools when they can just give money to social issues and get elected?”

Al-Shawaf said the Illinois Board of Higher Education will vote on a 1 percent increase in financial support in the near future.

“We’re hoping that we get at least 1 percent. That would help out a lot,” he said. “The President (of the University, B. Joseph White) will do the best he can to talk to state legislators and get the funding back.”

This week, members of the Student Senate are also working to get more funding in the form of a letter campaign. Tables are set up in buildings around campus for students to sign letters that will be delivered to state senators, representatives and the governor, Rod Blagojevich.

“It’s a great idea to stop by, sign a letter and let your voice be heard,” Al-Shawaf said. “Our goal is to hit 3,000.”

Adams said most students know the value of a degree from the University and need to compare the quality with the price.

“People want us to be cheap and very good, and we can’t do that,” he said.