Tuition Increase Continues at Illinois Colleges & Universities

While many students across the state are preparing for graduation, there are many more who are preparing to begin college in the fall. One of the biggest concerns when beginning a secondary education is how to afford the increasing costs to attend a university or college. The cost of tuition has slowly risen over the past ten years. In the past ten years, the average tuition rate at state public universities increased by 9.7 percent, and the average tuition rate at state community colleges increased by 6.4 percent. Illinois law states that a student is locked in to their incoming tuition rate for four years, so rate increases are for only incoming students.

Each year public schools increase tuition rates and student fees, and this year is no exception. Colleges and universities in Illinois are waiting for a total of $700 million dollars that has been appropriated to the schools but has not been paid due to the state’s $13 billion budget deficit. As a result, the schools are struggling to find alternative funding opportunities. The most popular way to increase money coming into the schools is to pass the cost along to the students by increasing tuition and student fees for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Southern Illinois University voted to hold tuition cost at last year’s rate. University president Glenn Poshard said that tuition increases at SIU totaled approximately 135 percent over the past 9 years. In an effort to lessen the economic burden on families and students, the Board voted to lock in tuition rates at $243 per credit hour. While SIU students won’t see any increase in tuition costs, they will see increases in student fees. The Board of Trustees approved a 1.8 percent increase in student fees. Some student fees (like maintenance fees) were kept the same, while the increases of other fees (like student center fees) were kept to a minor increase, a little over $2. All told, the student fee increases will be less than $30 per student.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees announced their new president, Michael Hogan, during their May 20 meeting. Formerly the president of the University of Connecticut, Hogan is expected to start the position July 1. Former U of I president Stanley Ikenberry was acting as interim president before the announcement. At the same meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a 9.5 percent tuition increase for all incoming students this fall. The Board also voted to increase housing rates by 3.2 percent and meal plans by 3.2 percent.

Eastern Illinois University voted to raise tuition by 6.2 percent, making the annual total $7,620 for a 15-credit schedule.

The Board of Trustees at Northern Illinois University voted to increase tuition by 9.5 percent. This increase comes a year after raising the cost by 8 percent. According to NIU’s president, the tuition increase will generate approximately $4.5 million annually for the school.

The Board of Trustees at ICC approved a 6.9 percent increase in tuition for this upcoming fall. Last year credit hours were $87, now they will be $93.

Universities are not only trying to recoup costs by raising tuitions, they are making cutbacks in other areas as well. For example, NIU has frozen most of its hiring, SIU Carbondale struggles to make payroll and pay its bills on time, and U of I is requiring employees to take unpaid furlough days. Cutbacks in staffing and instructors has lead to a fewer number of classes offered, which makes it more difficult for students to graduate. The classes that are offered are generally oversized, making learning difficult for some students.

With increasing costs to attend college and universities, many people are looking for grants, scholarships, and other types of financial aid. The Monetary Award Program is one of the most helpful financial aid tools offered to low and middle income students, and it is also being adversely affected by the state’s budget. MAP is a need-based state run program that gives monetary grants to students who attend an approved state university or college. The program is headed by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which is the state agency that heads the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition and Illinois Veterans Grant programs. The award of MAP does not take into consideration high school grades or test scores.

The program determines students eligibility based on information provided on their FAFSA forms, as long as an approved Illinois school is listed on the application and the student shows a significant financial need. To apply for the grant, students must submit their FAFSAs as soon as possible after January 1st on the calendar year of attending school. Getting the FAFSA application in early is the key to guaranteeing monetary help.

The MAP allows students who come from low to middle income families to attend college who would not otherwise have the opportunity. Data from 2008 shows that 77 percent of the students receiving MAP funds have an annual household income of less than $44,000, and that 48 percent of students receiving funds have an annual household income of less than $20,000. During the last academic year, MAP awarded more than $400 million to 145,000 students.

The number of applications for this school year increased 30 percent from last year, which forced MAP to begin denying grants to qualified applicants due to a shortage of funds beginning April 19. Last year the program did not have to begin denying students until May 15, and in previous years the funding lasted until the end of August. As of May 6, the total number of denied eligible students was 16,381, and officials of the program believe the number of students who will be denied MAP funds will reach 220,00 unless the program receives state assistance. If the program receives $400 million from state legislators, those qualified students will receive financial funding for school.

Officials of the agency still encourage students to submit a FAFSA because they may be eligible for other types of financial aid.