Board of Trustees to vote on increase in financial aid

By Josh Winters

The Board of Trustees will meet on Thursday to discuss a range of fiscal topics, including a proposed resolution to increase financial aid by $16 million. 

University spokesman Tom Hardy said the University typically increases the level of financial aid on a yearly basis along with the rate of tuition, which largely funds financial aid. 

In 2013, the University spent roughly $68 million on financial aid; the proposed increase would raise the level of aid to $84 million. 

Additionally, the Board will vote on the proposed 2014 to 2015 fiscal year budget, which increased by 1.6 percent, totalling $4.52 billion. 

In January, the Board approved a 1.7 percent increase, which Hardy said is similar to the rate of inflation. The tuition increase added $34 million to the proposed 2014 to 2015 budget. 

“A certain amount of tuition is used to help fund our institutional financial aid program,” Hardy said. “So, when the tuition rose slightly, so does the amount of financial that we’re able to provide students who qualify.”

However, current students will not see an increase in their tuition, as state law mandates that their tuition rate remains fixed during their tenure. 

The proposed increase in financial aid is relatively modest compared to how much the University spent on aid a decade ago, Hardy said.

“Back in fiscal 2002 or 2003, (financial aid) was approximately $16 million,” said Hardy. “The University is sensitive to the affordability and accessibility issues that families face and wants to provide financial assistance to those who qualify.”

Even though about half of students receive some form of financial aid, the rising cost of higher education has turned away accepted students, Hardy said.

In 2006, 49.7 percent of accepted students decided to attend the University; however, this number has been declining. In fall 2014, 34.8 percent of students enrolled. 

“There’s no question that being able to provide financial aid might help address that,” Hardy said. 

State funding has steadily decreased over the last decade, placing a larger financial burden on the University, which has the administration “very, very concerned,” Hardy said. 

The state of Illinois provides the University with roughly $660 million in direct revenue annually and an additional $1 billion to fund employee healthcare and retirement, Hardy said.

“Every year, we go and make our case in the state legislature in Springfield for increased support from the state,” Hardy said. “But at the end of the day, if they’re not providing us with a figure of appropriation [that we need], then we have to do what we can to try to sustain the level of excellence that we have.”

Josh can be reached at [email protected]