Board of Trustees begins tuition talks for 2016

By Abigale Svoboda

The Board of Trustee’s committee on Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities reviewed the effects of increasing the tuition for the 2016 fiscal year. The official vote on whether to decrease or increase tuition will take place in January 2015. 

Monday’s meeting began with a presentation from Christophe Pierre, vice president for academic affairs, who stated that tuition is a “key instrument in the University budget.” Pierre said there will be an estimated $35 million increase in the budget in 2016, partly due to an increase in tuition revenues. If the University does not increase tuition for the 2016 fiscal year, there will still be a $16 million revenue, he said. This is because graduating seniors are paying lower tuition rates than incoming freshman will pay, even without an increase. 

Currently, the University tuition is “frozen” for four years so students will pay the same rate during their entire time at the University. Pierre said this limits the University’s ability to react to funding changes. Every time tuition is decided, the University is making a four year commitment, something he suggested the University considers when setting new tuition rates.

Pierre said key factors in determining tuition include, protecting access and affordability of higher education, sustaining and enhancing the quality of education and recognizing financial challenges. He said the University is aware of tuition costs keeping students from attending. However, the University needs more money in order to maintain the same quality of education and resources. Additionally, the University and state are facing financial uncertainty, especially in regards to state appropriations for higher education.

Pierre said approving tuition for the 2016 fiscal year by January 2015 will help the University in both financial planning, as well as in recruiting students. 

State appropriation has continued to decrease, now at $643 million, while tuition and fees continue to increase, now at $1098 million total. 

This year, in-state undergraduate tuition totals to $25,000, including room and board. Tuition and fees exceed $15,000. In January 2014, tuition was increased 1.7 percent. 

“Because tuition is high, and the fees are as well, a lot of students cannot readily afford higher education at the U of I and we need to increase significantly in financial aid,” Pierre said. 

Currently, $10,000 is the most need-based aid students have received from Monetary Award Program grants and Pell grants, he said. In total, University students receive about $344 million in various forms of aid. Roughly 15 percent of students pay nearly no tuition or fees. Alternatively, about 60 percent of University students pay full tuition and fees, Pierre said. 

Tuition has not increased since 2013 for Purdue University, University of Wisconsin-Madison,  University of Minnesota,  University of Nebraska, University of Iowa and Ohio State University. Many of the schools have approved, or are in the process of approving, a 0 percent increase for its 2016 fiscal year, according to the presentation.

“Our tuition is significantly higher than those of our geographic peers and we are indeed losing many Illinois students to them,” Pierre said.

Despite an increase in the number of applications, and number of admitted students, the number of enrolled students has lay stagnant since 2007. As a result, the University yield has decreased from 48 percent to 33 percent in the past seven years. 

Pierre attributed this partly to the increased ease of college applications now, stating people apply to more schools. He also said cost is really the main reason that students eventually go to other institutions. 

“The tuition increase over the years is certainly a concern and we should take that into account when considering the next tuition increase,” Pierre said. 

Trustee Koritz told those in attendance he has seen Illinois residents choose other state schools firsthand. 

He said that high-achieving students can often receive in-state tuition at other state schools, he believes the University should keep that in mind when deciding tuition.

Pierre said the cost of higher education is a major national concern and the drop in University yield reflects that. Additionally, aid has not increased as much as need and student and family debt rates are higher than in the past.

He said these factors are important to consider but it is also important to remember the true cost of a quality education.

“We keep adding a lot of competition to recruit top faculty and staff and salary programs are very important. Best in class faculty are expensive,” Pierre said.

No recommendation was made, the goal of Pierre’s presentation was to begin the discussion about tuition in relation to campus needs and wants. 

The Board will continue to discuss the upcoming budget at its Nov. 13 meeting. 

Abigale can be reached at