Top UI administrator: University can’t afford to significantly raise tuition

The University can’t afford to raise tuition prices much higher than it already has, Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre told the Board of Trustees’ Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee at its meeting Monday.

He will give another presentation at the full board meeting on Nov. 14. This presentation will give board members context about tuition rates ahead of the January meeting, where the board hopes to set rates for next year’s incoming freshmen.

The University has increasingly relied on tuition funds for revenue. A $52.2 million increase in tuition revenues accounted for 99.8 percent of the University’s $52.3 million budget increase in Fiscal Year 2014, according to Pierre’s presentation at the September board meeting. In the past 10 years, state appropriations have dropped 25 percent, while tuition has increased accordingly. Tuition now makes up $1.1 billion of the University’s revenue, compared to $600 million provided by state appropriations, Pierre said.

But the University can’t afford to raise rates much more “if it doesn’t want to price itself out of the market,” Pierre said.

The Urbana campus has the second-highest sticker price of public Universities in the Big Ten, next to Penn State, and its sticker price is higher than all of its dashboard peers, according to Pierre’s presentation.

The University took this into consideration this past January when the Board of Trustees approved a 1.7 percent tuition hike for the current academic year, the lowest increase in 18 years.

Tuition revenue has increased because of an increase in prices, as well as an increase in enrollment. Ten years ago, 68,000 students attended the University’s three campuses, compared to 77,400 now, Pierre said.

Pierre said that setting rates by January helps the University budget in a timely manner and send out financial aid award letters to accepted freshmen. The rates also help the prospective students make a decision with knowledge of the cost difference between the University and other schools.

In addition to Pierre’s presentation, the committee also heard from architecture firm Harley Ellis Devereaux on a possible $22.9 million addition and renovation to the Chemistry Annex.

The Chemistry Annex is located on the Main Quad and Mathews Avenue and was built in 1931. The proposed addition would make the building “a new state of the art undergrad chemistry instructional facility,” according to the firm’s representative.

The building would have exterior work done and be “entirely gutted” on the inside. It would have to be closed for at least a year, the firm said. But it would be expanded with a 12,000 square foot addition, allowing for more lab space and collaboration space. The new wiring and energy systems would bring the building’s certification up to LEED Gold, the firm said.

The renovation and addition are pending Board of Trustees approval at its full meeting Nov. 14 in Springfield.

Johnathan can be reached at [email protected] and @jhett93.