Faculty Senate addresses possible tuition increase

By Matt Daray

SIU’s Board of Trustees will soon review potential tuition increases for the 2013- 2014 school year, but some Faculty Senate members said these increases could be detrimental during Tuesday’s meeting.

Members debated whether to support the higher tuition — which Chancellor Rita Cheng said would amount to a 5 percent increase — and whether the increase was in the university’s best interest, along with as the impact it could have on enrollment.

In other Faculty Senate agenda items, Cheng and Provost John Nicklow addressed the university’s signs of success as well as areas that still need work.

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Geology professor Ken Anderson said the tuition increase could be viewed differently by outsiders.

“On the surface of it, I think that sounds like a good idea because we all understand the fiscal situation at the university,” he said. “Think how that might be perceived outside of the university. Faculty voting to raise tuition might look a lot like being very self-serving.”

Cinema and photography professor Jyotsna Kapur said she could not support the tuition raise because it would prevent more students from remaining enrolled.

“I’m opposed to faculty making an argument for raising tuition on, not just bad publicity but on principle,” she said. “(It is) one of the reasons why we are losing students, at least in my college. Our academic adviser called up about 25 students who dropped out, and they basically dropped out because they couldn’t afford to pay what we are already charging.”

Meera Komarraju, Faculty Senate president and an associate professor of psychology, said the Senate still seemed divided about tuition increases and needs to discuss it further.

“Some faculty felt that yes, we should (support it) because that would make it more likely that the Board of Trustees would support it,” she said. “But then there’s some faculty who felt that we already know many of our students are struggling with their current fees, so to increase that even more would not be doing a good thing for our students.”

While tuition may rise, several university funding sources will soon end.

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Cheng said the U.S. military sent the university notices that they would not provide tuition assistance to area active military members, which is something the university depends on for financial aid. She also said some research grants will receive less money and cause fewer grants to be available and make them more competitive.

Despite the potential increase and shrinking grant opportunities, Cheng and Nicklow said Fall 2013 enrollment is looking up. Cheng said the university has the potential to enroll high-valued students.

“Our admission and our strength of the admitted students profile is very strong at the undergraduate level at this point in our cycle, all positives, both quantitatively and qualitatively, from talking with the students and parents,” she said. “We obviously have several really critical months here to make sure that students who do arrive on campus to register for courses or attend our admit days are impressed enough to continue their relationship with us until the fall semester.”

Nicklow said the university has received more than 13,000 fall semester applications, a 4.5 percent increase from fall 2012, and has admitted more than 8,000 students, a 5.5 percent increase from fall 2012. The students have a higher ACT/SAT and GPA average than students recruited for Fall 2012, he said.

However, he said, enrollment cannot be counted upon until students actually arrive for the semester.

Komarraju said the chancellor’s and provost’s comments are an indication undergraduate enrollment could be improving.

“I would say at least in the terms of undergraduate enrollment, this is a good sign that we have more students who are applying and wanting to be admitted,” she said. “But, as the provost said, until we see the yield, like they actually show up on campus, there’s always that sort of concern that will actually come or not.”

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