Tuition increases jump across country

By Alissa Groeninger

When Torrie Davis, freshman in LAS, and her friends want to do something fun they have to be careful with their money.

“It (has to be) hard for people who do have money issues to be able to go out to eat with their friends,” she said. “Everything’s gotten so expensive.”

This year’s total expenses at the University have risen less than last year’s increase, but room and board prices rose by $586.

The prices of boarding, books and other necessities have increased by a higher percentage across the country this year, according to a College Board report.

However, University students may be getting somewhat of a break compared to students at other schools because of the Urbana campus’ locked-in tuition rates.

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“Most people just think of tuition,” said Claude Walker, director of media affairs for the Illinois Students Assistance Commission, which helps students receive higher education regardless of the financial burden. “(However) some of the mandatory fees have just gone through the roof.”

There needs to be creative solutions to these problems, like unbundling text books and creating book sharing opportunities, Walker said.

For students who have trouble affording school, saving money becomes a necessity.

“If you’re thinking about having a pizza at midnight, skip it,” Walker said.

Increases in tuition have also escalated across the country.

The College Board’s report says that tuition for the 2008-09 school year increased by a higher percentage than it has in past years.

Between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years, tuition at 4-year public schools increased by 6.3 percent and tuition at private 4-year schools increased by 5.9 percent.

Between the last and current school years, tuition at public schools increased by 6.6 percent, and tuition at private 4-year schools increased by 6.3 percent.

Schools have to allocate funds for increasingly expensive utility bills and transportation services, in addition to paying faculty and staff.

“Public universities are supported through state funds and tuition,” said Randall Kangas, assistant vice president for Planning and Budgeting at the University. “When state funds are not doing as well tuition tends to be higher.”

The report has some concerned that it is becoming more difficult for people from lower-income families to attend college, increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

“It’s getting tough out there,” Walker said.

Walker said there is less financial aid available now than in the past and there are more students who want to go to college, creating competition for available funds.

“There’s more and more competition for fewer seats,” Walker said.

At the University, tuition rose by 9.5 percent. However, this is misleading because rates are locked after students’ freshman years. The tuition a student pays as a freshman is the tuition the student will pay for the remaining four years. When the locked rate is taken into account the tuition increase is 3.6 percent, more than 2.5 percent lower than the average increases for four-year-public schools.

“We know what we have to pay and it won’t ever increase on us,” said Brian Dance, sophomore in LAS.

Kangas said the University did not have to raise tuition as much as other public schools because the state was able to provide enough financial support. Benefit and health care costs for employees at colleges are consuming states’ finances but Illinois was able to come up with the necessary funds, Kangas said.

Despite a smaller percent increase in tuition, the University still asks for more than the average public institution. The University’s base tuition for in-state residents during the 2008-2009 school year is $9,242. According to the College Board, 43 percent of students who attend a public school pay between $3,000 and $5,999. Another 34 percent of public school students have a tuition between $6,000 and $8,999.

“We need to look at affordability and quality,” Kangas said. “Quality is expensive. You get what you pay for.”