8 percent tuition increase prosposed at U. of Illinois campuses

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

URBANA, Ill. -- The University of Illinois plans to seek an 8 percent tuition increase at its three campuses this fall, saying the new money would save about 250 jobs and mean a raise for most faculty and staff.

The university administration revealed Monday that it plans to ask the school's Board of Trustees for the increase at a meeting Friday in Chicago. Higher tuition would help offset the loss of $58 million from the state, said Chester S. Gardner, the university's vice president for academic affairs.

"It will allow us to reduce that impact by about 20 percent," Gardner told The Associated Press. "So instead of eliminating about 1,100 jobs, we'll only have to eliminate about 20 percent less, maybe about 850 jobs. Instead of eliminating 1,000 course sections, we'll only have to eliminate about 800."

Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Monday his administration will try to convince the school to make the increase smaller.

"That seems very excessive and high to me," he said. "We hope to be able to find a better way."

Late Monday, university spokesman Tom Hardy said the board also will be given a plan for a 5 percent increase to consider, even though the administration continues to recommend 8 percent.

UI is the last major Illinois university to consider a tuition increase. Trustees at Eastern Illinois University approved a 9.5 percent increase Monday, raising undergraduate tuition to $1,781 a semester for full-time students on a four-year track, said Vicki Woodard, a university spokeswoman.

The proposed increase at UI would come on top of a 10 percent rise last summer. It would affect about 44,000 undergraduate students at campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

If the 8 percent recommendation is approved, undergraduates from Illinois would see their tuition go up $212 to $2,863 per semester at Urbana-Champaign, where more than 36,000 students attend classes. Fees and room-and-board boost that to $6,692 per semester, an increase of 5.8 percent in the total cost to attend school, which Gardner calls the "sticker price."

Tuition would rise $132 to $1,775 per semester at Springfield and $187 to $2,519 at Chicago. The "sticker price" increase at those campuses would be 5.2 percent and 5.4 percent, according the proposal.

The university administration also recommends an 8 percent increase for graduate students, Gardner said.

Trustee Devon Bruce conceded Monday that an increase was unavoidable given the state's $5 billion budget shortfall, which he blamed on former Gov. George Ryan.

"I am vehemently against placing the result of a corrupt administration on the backs of college students, which is exactly what we're talking about doing," said Bruce, a Chicago attorney appointed to the board this spring by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Telephone calls placed Monday to other members of the board were not immediately returned.

The tuition increase would raise about $41 million. About half of that would go toward raises of about 2.5 percent to most faculty and staff, whose salaries were frozen last year, Gardner said. Deans, chancellors, vice presidents and university President James Stukel, who makes $335,000 a year, would be exempt.

"The senior administrators are not going to get a salary increase this year. They didn't get one last year, they're not going to get one this year," Gardner said, adding that administrators chose to make the investment in rank-and-file faculty and staff.

The university also will propose some tuition add-ons for new students in engineering, business and fine arts at Urbana-Champaign. They would have to pay an additional $100 to $750 per semester, on top of the general increase, to help fund their programs, Gardner said.

About 1,000 new students from outside Illinois would have to pay an additional $1,000 per semester, and new students at the Springfield campus would pay $250 per semester on top of the regular tuition, he said.

The proposed increase at UI is less than those approved at several other public universities this spring. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale raised tuition 16 percent for the fall, Illinois State's will go up nearly 10 percent, Western Illinois tuition goes up 13 percent, and Northern Illinois will raise rates by about 11 percent.

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