SIUE tuition frozen for another year; fees increase

News-DemocratMay 8, 2014 

— Freshmen at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will not pay higher tuition than last year's new students, though some fees will increase for the incoming class.

The SIU board of trustees approved a slate of fees for the Edwardsville and Carbondale universities at its meeting Thursday, but there was no increase in tuition.

The SIUE administration had recommended a 5 percent tuition increase with the support of student government, which would have increased tuition by $366 to $7,662 per year based on a 15-hour, two-semester schedule. The Carbondale administration had requested a 3 percent increase to $8,667 a year.

But the board held to its previous decision not to increase tuition. SIUE's tuition will remain at $243.20 per credit hour, which is $2,918.40 a semester for a 12-hour schedule or $3,648 for a 15-hour schedule. Under Illinois' "Truth in Tuition" law, incoming freshmen will pay that tuition rate for four years.

Board Chairman Randal Thomas said the university needs to find "better, more efficient" ways of funding operations, rather than increasing tuition every year.

SIU President Randy Dunn, who took office on May 1, said higher education as a whole has reached a critical juncture in funding, where they must find alternatives to hiking tuition rates.

"The current model is simply not sustainable, with percentage increases year after year," Dunn said. "Our board knows that, and they have indicated we have to hearken back to our core values."

Dunn said he intends to focus on streamlining university operations and examining all programs for maximum efficiency. "When we come back and we've done all that we can, then we could reopen the discussion" of tuition increases, he said.

However, the required fees will increase approximately $31.65 for the average undergraduate student taking 12 hours of classes a semester. Among the fee increases:

* The athletic fee will increase $5.75 from $170.65 per semester to $176.40, a 3.4 percent increase of $5.75. The fee pays for SIUE's intercollegiate athletics program.

* The facilities fee will increase from $19 to $19.50 per credit hour, a 2.6 percent increase or $6 for a 12-hour full-time student. The fee will go to pay for major building repairs on the seven older buildings constructed between 1965 and 1979.

* The information technology fee will increase from $7.05 to $7.25 per credit hour, a 2.8 percent increase or $2.40 for a 12-hour full-time student. The fee pays for computer resources and the campus network infrastructure.

* The student fitness center fee will increase $2.50 from $84.20 to $86.70 per semester, a 3 percent increase. The fee pays for the student fitness center, equipment replacement and renovations.

* The student welfare and activity fee will increase $1.65 from $114.95 to $116.60 per semester, a 1.4 percent increase. The fee pays for services such as campus recreation, legal services, student government, publications, activities and other services that support capus life.

* The textbook rental fee will be increased 70 cents from $12.30 to $13 per credit hour, or $156 for a full-time 12-hour course load, an increase of $8.40. The fee allows students to rent their textbooks at a lower cost than buying them.

* The university center fee will increase $4.95 from $161.55 to $166.50 per semester, or 3.1 percent increase. The fee is the primary source of revenue for the university center.

* Housing rates will increase to $2,715 per semester for a shared freshman room and $1,020 per month for an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in Cougar Village.

* The 15 percent tuition surcharge for the School of Engineering was approved. All undergraduate majors will pay 15 percent more for tuition, though course-specific fees for upper-level engineering courses will be phased out.

In other news:

* SIUC has reported more than 146 retirements announced so far, with up to 200 employees planning to retire by the end of the year, according to SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng. By contrast, SIUE is expecting 61 retirements by the end of this fiscal year. Of those, 26 have actually retired and 35 more intend to retire by the end of the semester. This is slightly higher than last year's total of 47, but less than half 2012's total of 123 retirements.

* Representatives of the Carbondale Daily Egyptian newspaper and the Carbondale School of Journalism protested the board's decision to table a proposed $9 fee to fund the newspaper, pointing out that SIUE students pay $7 for their weekly newspaper and the student paper has already cut salaries and staff, reduced its circulation area and stopped printing on Fridays to cope with increased costs of paper and lower advertising revenue.

Daily Egyptian editor Kayli Plotner said the fee was proposed in part as parity with SIUE, whose students pay $7 a semester for their weekly newspaper, the Alestle.

"We've been working on this for so long, and we feel we have done our part," Plotner said. "All other avenues have been considered and explored, and they are not cost-effective."

Bill Freivogel, director of the School of Journalism, reminded the board that a year ago representatives from the school gave the board a report on the newspaper's financial issues and they were encouraged by the board's support. Freivogel pointed out that the undergraduate student government approved the fee.

"We felt we had answered the questions that had been raised, and for it to be delayed another year is a deep disappointment for us," Freivogel said. "What are our prospective journalism students supposed to think?... When we had the students willing and understanding the importance of imposing the fee, to go back to Band-Aids is a real disappointment."

However, the board held to its decision and tabled the proposed fee.

Last year, retiring President Glenn Poshard had provided $55,000 to the Daily Egyptian from his office's budget. After the meeting, Dunn told representatives from the Daily Egyptian that he intended to follow his predecessor's example by providing the same additional funding from his office to help the paper get through the next year, while working with them on financial sustainability.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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