Tuition rate set for incoming freshmen

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Executive Committee approved a 2.6 percent tuition increase Wednesday for incoming fall 2009 freshmen. The increase is less than the original proposal of 4 percent that was to be voted on.

The meeting in Chicago was a special session and some called in via teleconference. It was held because officials and executive committee board chairman Niranjan Shah in particular decided families of incoming students should not have to wait until July when the next regular Board of Trustee meeting is scheduled to find out tuition prices.

Mike Lillich, assistant director in the Office for University Relations, said the reason the tuition vote came so late was because of the Illinois state budget, which has yet to be finalized.

“With all the political turmoil, there hasn’t been a (state) budget bill passed yet,” Lillich said. “There is a budget bill that is a 1.1 percent increase to the University from the state. That’s passed, but the governor hasn’t signed it. There’s been a lot of uncertainty … with the budget in particular.”

Typically, tuition is voted on in March with all the Board of Trustees members present to vote. But Wednesday’s meeting, which was deemed an emergency matter, gave three trustees Shah, Frances Carroll and Robert Vickrey the power to act for the full board.

Trustee David Dorris and student trustees Craig McFarland and Elias Pittos all argued in favor of a no tuition increase during the teleconference. After “vigorous discussion,” Carroll proposed an amended item calling for the 2.6 percent increase, which was voted on unanimously by the three-member executive committee.

Randy Kangas, the assistant vice president for planning and budgeting at the University of Illinois, acknowledged that it’s “very difficult” to plan a budget and set tuition prices when the state budget is not yet approved and the University does not have an appropriation bill from the state. When asked if a tuition freeze was possible from a budgeting standpoint, Kangas said, “Anything is possible,” but added that such a freeze would increase the re-allocation of funds and affect the quality of programs and units.

With the increase, tuition for incoming freshmen at the Urbana-Champaign campus will cost $121 more per semester and a full year will now cost $9,484. That price is locked in for four years. Freshmen still must pay more than $8,600 for room and board, which was increased by about 5 percent in January.

This year’s 2.6 percent tuition increase pales in comparison to the 2008-09 increase of 9.5 percent, but Lillich said it was still necessary.

“Costs go up,” Lillich said. “You need to be competitive in professors’ salaries, or they get poached by other universities for more money. Even in times like these, you still have some inflation.”

Kangas said he did not know what the extra money from increased tuition would go toward, adding funds would likely be re-allocated once all state funding was finalized.

Neither University of Illinois President B. Joseph White nor University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Richard Herman was present at the meeting or joined in Wednesday’s teleconference. Lillich said White usually attends executive committee meetings but had a conflict Wednesday. University chancellors usually attend executive committee meetings when there is a matter pertaining solely to their university branch, Lillich said. White and Herman did not learn of the 2.6 percent increase until it had already been voted on and approved. Nevertheless, White was pleased in a press release statement.

“In my discussion with state legislators about operating funds for 2009-10, I said we would do our best to minimize as much as possible this year’s tuition increase for students and their families,” White said. “The more modest tuition increase for 2009-10 will help us maintain academic excellence and increase financial aid.”