Illinois gets another tuition increase

By Madeline Keleher

By Madeline Keleher

Staff writer

In-state tuition for the incoming freshman class will be 9.46 percent higher than the tuition rate for the previous class.

The Board of Trustees approved a tuition increase of $666 per academic year in April. The sum of tuition, mandatory fees and the newly-approved $250-per semester Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment fee amounts to a total cost of $9,936 per year to attend the University.

“The tuition increase was inevitable,” said Robert Anderson, senior associate director of the Office of Student Financial Aid. “The state used to cover a higher percentage of the cost of education, but that percentage keeps decreasing.”

Tuition was increased to add faculty, teaching assistants and a greater variety of courses to the University, said Chester Gardner, vice president of Academic Affairs.

“We are trying very hard to maintain and improve academic quality,” Gardner said.

“We want to be one of the best universities in the country,” Anderson said. “But if the tuition is too low it will hurt instruction.”

Despite the increasing cost of attendance, some feel that the University is still a good financial option.

“The tuition has been increasing so much over the last few years, but it’s still a much better deal than anywhere else,” said Marian Fitzgibbon, whose son will attend the University in the fall.

In a group of 21 peer institutions ranked by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the University is ranked as the fourteenth most expensive college, after universities such as Yale and the University of Michigan.

“The problem is that there is no lower cost option in the state,” Gardner said. “Northwestern and the University of Chicago have much higher tuitions than we do. If students wanted to go to a cheaper public school, they’d have to go out of state, and then tuition would be 2-2.5 times more.”

Gardner said that even with the tuition increase, the University is a remarkable bargain – and many students and parents agree.

“Compared to other options, it’s really good financially,” said Alejandro Lopez-Morales, a New Trier High School senior attending the University in the fall. “My dad is happy.”

Nevertheless, people expect better financial options from a state school, Fitzgibbon said.

“Comparatively speaking, it’s a good deal, but it’s not the bargain that it used to be,” he said.

Recent achievements in athletics, academics, and research are overriding the cost and bringing in a record number of applicants, Anderson said. The concern is not with the number of applicants.

“We’re concerned that this may discourage lower income students, who are very well-qualified academically, but are worried about the cost,” Gardner said.

But the cost of tuition continues to be a problem for students like Lopez-Morales.

“Public schools should remain affordable,” Lopez-Morales said. Although he already won a scholarship through the University’s Presidents Award Program, he said he will apply for financial aid. “U of I is really highly ranked, but it would be much nicer if it was cheaper.”

By Madeline Keleher

Staff writer

As the cost of college tuition increases each year throughout the country, money is a growing factor in students’ decisions concerning which college to attend.

More than 11,000 college students in the Champaign-Urbana community seek their education at the less-expensive Parkland College instead of the University. Money is one of main factors that figure in to the choice that students make to attend the two-year college rather than a four-year program.

Jenna Hills, who began her first year at Parkland in 2005, said that money factored greatly into her decision to attend Parkland.

“I was going to go to Northern (Illinois University), but I won an academic scholarship to Parkland,” Hills said. “Here I can get a good education for free, so I figured this was the smart decision.”

According to the Parkland College Web site, students living at home in the district pay $7,300 in tuition. This is almost 25 percent less than the cost of tuition for the University of Illinois, which is $9,936 per academic year without room and board.

In addition to the better price, Parkland offers many things that the University of Illinois does not, said Erin Read, then a freshman at Parkland.

“The classes are smaller, it’s easier to get around campus and you can get to know people more easily,” Read said. “And it’s nice because you can really talk one-on-one with the teachers.”

In the fall 2005 senester, Parkland had a faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 20, a three-percent increase since five years ago. The University of Illinois has a faculty-to-student ratio of 1 to 21.3, a 10-percent increase from five years ago.

But Read and Hills both said there are also drawbacks of attending a two-year college program.

“Sometimes I wish I went to a big four-year university,” Hills said. “There are a lot of cliques at Parkland, and people can be racist. It’s like an extended high school.”

Read said that the two-year college doesn’t offer the full college experience because it is so small and because none of the students live in dormitories.

“I knew from the get-go that Parkland was the smartest decision,” Read said. “It has a great radiology program, and in two years I can get a job and be ahead of a lot of people. But after hanging out at the U of I, I know that if I were to go to a university, I’d want to go U of I.”

She is concerned with tuition increases across the country, however. The University of Illinois Urbana campus increased annual tuition by $666 per year for the incoming freshman class.

“The college tuition increases aren’t a good idea,” Hills said. “In my case, I’m here for free, but I’m lucky. A lot of kids can hardly afford college as it is.”