Students should see returns of cost-cutting methods, budget

As students familiar with tuition rises over the past several years, we hardly flinch anymore at the sight of an increased budget, much less a $5.4 billion budget.

But when we look at the breakdown of money allocation, we find ourselves wondering who is benefitting from these cost-cutting methods.

Attempts to save money are usually admirable, but the reality is that students are not seeing the returns of any of these cuts, and those students should be the main focus of the University’s decision-makers. We can respect the University’s desire to move away from heavy dependence on a state whose economy and government have been less-than-reliable in recent years, but doing so at the expense of the students seems unfair at best.

The price of tuition continues to increase, which can begin to deter more and more students in-state and out-of-state alike from attending the University, especially when in-state rates rise above out-of-state costs at other comparable universities.

While numbers show that in Fall 2011, almost half of undergraduates were not paying full tuition, there are still about 20,000 students paying the sticker price, most with little to no financial assistance.

And the demands continue to rise to pay off former professors and other employees by way of a thoroughly bloated pension system, which will consume an additional $227.6 million this year, bumping up our pension and health care payments over $1 billion.

It’s taking a toll, and most of us — especially the Illinois residents — understand the difficulty of this situation.

University officials continue to point the finger at the state for declining funding, and as students we have to stop and ask what is being done as far as relief for us in this struggle.

Administrative cost reallocation is positive in theory but to the tune of $50 million in proportion to a $5.4 billion budget, it isn’t making a dent. This number is only expected to rise to $60 million in two years. It seems further cuts still need to be made.

Then there are the faculty and staff pay raises. While keeping quality faculty here is as important to us as it is for administrators, no one can deny that this is another area where students will have to make up for the difference.

While the research at the University has increased, faculty, some of whom lead this research, continue to leave faster than the University can replace them. After all, a successful experience for students on a research project depends on the relationship between a student and the faculty member with whom they are researching — that may prove difficult when the faculty member they begin their project with leaves before its finished.

As we continue to press Illinois for money — $749 million-worth in FY2014 — we ought to work on what we can control, instead of shirking the costs onto students for the faults of the state’s economy.