Trustees should assess options before implementing changes

At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday in Chicago, trustee Kenneth Schmidt voiced concerns about a decision of the Board’s Executive Committee to lower a tuition increase from 4 percent to 2.6 percent. Schmidt said that faculty were upset with the decision, which would be binding for the next four years. Regardless of the merits of a tuition increase, for the Board to represent the interests of students and the state, decisions should be made with the involvement of all members, not just the Executive Committee.

According to the University’s chief financial officer, the cut would mean $3.5 million less in tuition every year, starting when it takes effect in spring 2010. In a university with an annual budget of around $4.2 billion, this may not seem like a significant amount of money, but with cuts to higher education in the state budget, any reduction in funding can make a difference. President B. Joseph White said that the University administration should “do its homework” before a change in tuition is made. Input from administrators is important in assessing different financial options.

The decision to cut the tuition increase should have been made with extensive consultation of all twelve board members and University officials, not by three individuals. The Board of Trustees had already voted to approve the 4 percent increase in tuition, which means that the executive committee went behind the backs of the other members to reverse it. With confidence in the Board of Trustees already low, the impression that the Board tried to circumvent its normal operating procedures is yet another blow to its public image.

The Board of Trustees needs to investigate means of increasing revenue for the University without raising tuition. But decisions on funding for the University should be made by the Board’s operating procedures. The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the University, representing the state’s taxpayers and the University’s students. All of these voices should be heard in making decisions about tuition.