Townhall discusses tuition issues

By Christine Won

At the University’s Board of Trustees town hall meeting Wednesday, several students expressed their misgivings regarding the proposed tuition and fee recommendations in the Illini Union’s Courtyard Caf‚ at noon.

Student Trustee Nicholas Klitzing, junior in LAS, said the annual town hall meetings are to gauge students’ views on proposed increases and to see where students want their money going.

“In recent years, it’s been difficult fiscal times,” Klitzing said. “Our budget has been cut significantly; last year we received a 3 percent cut, and the year before that, 4 percent cut in funding. You factor in inflation and get like 7 percent.”

He said the budget cut forced the Board of Trustees to make difficult decisions to insure that degrees received from the University are not diminishing. In order to do that, the Board turned to internal sources and increased tuition, he said.

Interim Vice Chancellor William Riley said the total proposed fee increase for the next school year is 4.63 percent per semester.

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The proposed undergraduate room and board fee increase was 7.54 percent per two semesters, about 4 percent more than the past annual inflation of 3 percent.

The additional inflation will be used to eradicate the Illini Orange, said Riley. Large significant improvements will be made in its place, and there will also be easier access to the campus for students with disabilities.

Interim Provost Jesse Delia presented overhead transparencies depicting the steady decline of state funding the past years.

“We have a collective interest in keeping this place an institution for discovery and learning,” Delia said. “To be one of the premier universities in the country, we need superior faculty, supporting resources and a wide range of curricula.”

Another transparency showed that the University ranked 52nd among various universities in per-student financial resources.

“The quality of education our institution offers is increasingly being placed at risk as state funding continuously decreases,” Delia said.

Rachel Shulman, graduate student, was one of the three members in the audience who spoke out during the discussion.

During the meeting, the Courtyard was busy with bustling students, but when Shulman stood apart from other tables and chairs she started to speak, the Courtyard quieted.

Her voice grew louder as her words ran faster together in obvious frustration with a problem to which she later acknowledged there wasn’t an answer the administration could give her.

“A lot of money is being spent on this campus that can be better spent – for my students,” Shulman said.

She said one section a week for 50 minutes in a classroom of 30 students is not enough.

“Students don’t learn in lectures with 600 other people, each doing something else,” Shulman said. “It allows them to be anonymous.”

She expressed regret that not many students showed up to the meeting.

“The number of people that showed up at the meeting is in itself indicative,” Shulman said after the discussion. “It may not affect your tuition, but it says something about the University you received your degree from. Somebody had to stand up and say something.”

Adam Blahnik, senior in LAS and member of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, said more graduate students should come out and get involved.

“Students don’t come out because they think they won’t be heard, but they will be,” Blahnik said.

Klitzing agreed with Blahnik.

“If students aren’t happy, the Board isn’t happy,” Klitzing said. “That’s why the town hall meeting is an important tool for the Board.”

The Service Fee Advisory Committee consists of eight students, two faculty staff members and Associate Vice Chancellor Eugene Barton.

The role of the Service Fee Advisory Committee is to review budgets of fee-supported units, formulate a recommendation and run it by the University Chancellor, University President and Board of Trustees.

Delia said the committee’s challenge is juggling many priorities. It is a matter of balancing affordable finances, worthy education and students’ needs, he said.

“Delivering high quality education is fundamental, but there will be some large classes,” Delia said. “Overall, we do a very good job maintaining a strong learning environment.”

“Problems we’re having financially are emblematic of problems that public universities are facing across the country,” Shulman said. “We cram them in lecture halls. There aren’t enough TA’s for students. We don’t provide enough lecturers.”

The goal of tuition-based funding is to maintain a great university that transforms lives of students and provide the opportunity they come to us for, Delia said.

“Our goal is to ultimately build a university that is accessible and supportive of all University students,” said Delia.