UI proposes third-straight in-state tuition freeze

UI proposes third-straight in-state tuition freeze

URBANA — The University of Illinois ranks high in the Big Ten on a measure it would rather not: tuition and fees.

For several years, it has had the third-highest tuition and fees in the conference, behind only Northwestern and Penn State.

But the UI is proposing its third consecutive tuition freeze for in-state freshmen next fall.

Graduate students, freshmen from other states and international students would see a 1.8 percent tuition increase.

If approved, the tuition freeze for Illinois residents would be the longest in 40 years, according to the university. The UI had a four-year freeze from 1974 to 1977.

"I don't know how long we can keep our tuition flat for Illinois residents, given our state situation," Executive Vice President Barb Wilson told UI trustees Monday. "But we're committed for one more year."

A budget impasse reduced state funding for the UI system over the last two years by about $750 million as legislators could only agree on temporary stopgap funding measures.

"We are working hard to keep education affordable," Wilson said. "The future is the question."

Trustees reviewed proposed tuition, fees and housing rates for the UI's three campuses in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana at the board's Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee. The full board will vote on the measures Jan. 19 in Chicago.

As proposed, base tuition for in-state undergraduates next fall would match rates for the 2014-15 academic year — $12,036 a year in Urbana-Champaign, $10,584 in Chicago and $9,405 in Springfield. Students in engineering, the sciences and other disciplines pay higher tuition once "differential" charges are added in, however.

Base tuition for out-of-state freshmen would rise to $28,156, and the rate for international students would be $29,016. Graduate student tuition would increase to $12,488 for Illinois residents and $26,980 for nonresidents.

Under the state's 2004 guaranteed tuition law, tuition rates for incoming freshmen would remain unchanged for four years.

UI President Tim Killeen said the goal is to keep a UI education affordable and accessible to all students.

He had said last summer he hoped to keep tuition steady in 2017-18, despite the state budget uncertainty.

Board Chairman Ed McMillan praised the plan Monday, and Wilson said she expects the full board will approve the freeze.

"We know that tuition costs are a huge issue for families across the country, and we want to work hard to make higher education affordable to the extent that we can," she said.

Walter Knorr, UI vice president and chief financial officer, said the state still owes the UI about $45 million from its $351 million "bridge" funding that ran through Dec. 31. That appropriation represented just over half of the UI's usual annual funding. Legislators have been unable to agree on a budget for the remainder of the year, though talks resumed Monday in Springfield.

"We're always hoping for the best," Knorr said.

Meanwhile, tuition at the UI law school would drop next year under rates proposed Monday — by 8.5 percent for Illinois residents and 2.2 percent for students from other states. In-state students now pay $38,250, and nonresidents pay $46,000.

Wilson said applications to U.S. law schools have declined nationwide since 2011, and many law schools are admitting fewer students, relaxing their standards or lowering tuition to compete — some by "quite a bit," she said.

The UI law school actually raised tuition last year and applications still increased, she noted.

But most students don't pay the full sticker price because they get scholarships, Wilson said, and dropping the tuition rate would put it closer to the actual cost. The hope is that will help the law school recruit more out-of-state students and those from underrepresented minority groups, she said.

Mandatory fees at the Urbana campus would go up by $16 a year, or about 0.5 percent, to $3,038 a year. That includes a $2 increase in the transportation fee, as part of the UI's contract for bus service with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District; as well as $14 more for academic building maintenance.

Mandatory fees also pay for campus recreational facilities, student unions, career services, athletics, counseling centers and libraries. They don't include optional student health insurance rates, which are set in March.

Undergraduate room-and-board rates would remain at current levels — $10,612 a year at Urbana for a standard double-occupancy room and meal plan. Room-and-board costs are locked in for up to four years if students continue to live in campus residence halls.

Student costs at UIUC

Category 2016-17 2017-18 (proposed)
Base tuition* $12,036 $12,036
Mandatory fees $3,022 $3,038
Room and board** $10,612 $10,612
Total $25,670 $25,686

* — Some students pay up to $17,000 annually with differential surcharges for their major.

** — Based on a double-occupancy room with a standard meal plan.

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kiel wrote on January 10, 2017 at 7:01 am

This move should be applauded. However, it should not be taken as evidence that UIUC is not buckling under the weight of financial pressure imposed by the chronic lack of a state budget. Quality of instruction is suffering: courses/sections are not being taught because there are not enough faculty, and TA positions are being defunded so sections/classes are getting bigger and homework/tests need to be simplified so that the instructor alone can grade them. This already dire situation will feed itself: Fewer TA slots mean fewer grad students accepted. Fewer grad students mean faculty will not have students to work with, so faculty will leave. Faculty leaving without the ability to hire replacements will mean fewer courses, more over-filled classrooms, and less grant money coming to campus. Lowered revenue from all these things, mean fewer TA slots.... Illinois needs to invest in its premier research university. Or is the plan to bleed it dry and then sell it off for pennies on the dollar like the state lottery and the parking meters in Chicago? 

whatithink wrote on January 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Top colleges in other states are still half the costs of the U of corrupt Illinois, but hey, you can celebrate "unoifficial" and attend a top party college.