URBANA – Graduate student Rachel Shulman says the education of the students in the American history course she helps teach is suffering because of large classes and too few discussion sections.
"I sit with over 600 students who can't concentrate on the lecture because the room is too big and other classmates are checking their e-mail or reading the newspaper," said Shulman, a graduate student in history. "Large classes are not giving our students any favors ... no matter how brilliant our professors are."
Shulman was at a Thursday meeting to discuss tuition and fee increases for next year. She said the number of teaching assistants in her department has been cut, and she demanded to know when UI administrators were going to put money into teaching and facilities in the central campus area.
Interim Provost Jesse Delia said the UI hopes to address the problem with money from a tuition increase.
Delia said tuition has replaced state support as the main source of revenue for the university, but it hasn't made up for all the cuts in state funding.
That funding gap "means one (teaching assistant) has disappeared, or some number of (course) sections, or the size of classes has grown larger," he said.
He noted that about one-third of the UI's classes have 20 or fewer students, compared with about half the classes at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Michigan. He said a priority is to increase the number of small class sections, and he said the UI has already begun trying to restore the number of teaching assistants after cuts a few years ago.
"We must take control of the future and recognize we have to put together a financial base" that will retain top faculty, keep classes small and make a variety of courses available, he said.
Delia said the UI has not yet specified a tuition increase for incoming freshmen next year, who are guaranteed to pay the same rate for four years. But if the increase matched the rate of inflation, compounded over four years, it would be between 9 percent and 13 percent, Delia said. That would mean a $630 to $910 increase to the current tuition rate of $7,042 for freshmen.
Students who are now juniors do not have a tuition guarantee and so will likely also see a tuition hike, but not as much as incoming students.
At the same time, administrators are working to increase the amount of financial aid for students, Delia said, including covering the gap between tuition and the amount of money available from Monetary Award Program grants, funding a campus merit award program, and making the establishment of college and department merit awards a significant part of the UI's upcoming capital campaign.
"I wish it were a prettier picture that didn't talk about continuing tuition increases, but that is a realistic picture," Delia said.
Students would pay about 7.5 percent more for housing next year, or a $506 increase, under a proposed housing rate change. The increase would bring housing rates to $7,216 per year.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Riley said the increase is higher than usual to help pay for the first phase of renovation of the "six-pack" dorm complex.
The work will include a new dining hall and a new dorm for disabled students who now live in Beckwith Hall, which is separate from other dorms on campus.
Riley said about 4 percent of the increase would go to that project.
The proposed tuition and fee increases must be approved by the UI Board of Trustees.
Proposed changes in student fees
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Riley on Thursday reviewed proposed changes in student fees. They call for an overall increase of about 4.6 percent, or $28, to $617 per year.
– An 8 percent increase, or $17, in the general fee, to $228 per year. The general fee supports debt service, equipment replacement and building maintenance, and campus overhead costs.
Riley said this includes a $21.62 increase in the campus recreation fee to pay for a major renovation of the Intramural Physical Education Building, which is to begin in the spring. Other units that get money from the general fee have seen their rates drop to offset the increase for campus recreation, he said.
– A 4.26 percent increase, or $8, in the health fee, to $196 per year. This will help pay for a $250,000 increase in medical malpractice insurance rates for McKinley Health Center, Riley said.
– A 1.58 percent increase, or $3, in the service fee, to $193 per year. The service fee helps support programming at the Illini Union, Career Center, Assembly Hall and campus recreation. The increase will help pay for cost increases in operations and for technology upgrades, Riley said.