National agency to state schools: Make college more affordable

By Gus Bode

Linda Clemons wants the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education to know they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education issued a challenge in March to the state universities to make college more affordable. The document contained recommendations on how to control the rise of tuition.

Clemons, director of financial aid, said the recommendations are unrealistic.


‘What this article is saying is don’t deteriorate the quality of education while we aren’t paying anyone money. It sounds like a little kid saying ‘I want it all,” Clemons said. ‘They’re saying do everything with no more money.’

Sen. David Luechtefeld of Okawville said struggles with the state’s budget are a major reason for the university’s proposed tuition rate increase. Higher education has not received a bump in state appropriations for seven years.

Gov. Pat Quinn released a budget proposal this month that would give the university $236 million from the state, roughly $2.3 million more than SIU received last year. However, that figure has yet to pass through the Illinois Legislature.

The university, meanwhile, is set to increase tuition rates for incoming freshmen by 4.5 percent.

‘The state has, after the last six years in particular, really made significant cuts in higher education and that of course causes the tuition rates to go up,’ Luechtefeld said. ‘I think Gov. Quinn understands that. I’m not too sure the other governor really cared.’

Luechtefeld acknowledged the need for the state to support its public education, but said he couldn’t see universities getting much money.

Recent talk of rising tuition has led the university to find ways to cut corners. One of those ways ‘-‘- closing low-demand, high cost programs that are not distinguished and cannot be justified by economic or labor market needs ‘-‘- was in NCPPHE’s article ‘A Challenge to the States.’


‘We have begun over the past couple of months, particularly talking to deans because they have the bulk of personnel costs on issues of efficiency and productivity – the issues that the Legislature is after us on,’ Chancellor Sam Goldman said.

Goldman said deans are looking into consolidating classes that either do not need to be so small or do not need to be offered. The consolidations may force the university to offer some courses once a year instead of once a semester, which may cause conflict with students’ graduation timelines.

The university has touched on many of the recommendations on the list, Clemons said.

She said the university freezes tuition once students are enrolled and SIUC has an open-door campus, both of which were suggested by the article.

Clemons said the university also uses student employment as a way to make college more affordable.

‘One of the things our campus tries to do is never cut the student jobs, but if you think about it, that’s still money that’s got to be paid out,’ Clemons said.

The university is looking adjusting the Two-Plus-Two program so that students take a preapproved set of courses at a community college, enter as juniors and receive the frozen tuition rate that the junior class has instead of the rate they would have paid as freshmen.

The article recommends that universities limit credit requirements for degree programs and accumulation of excess credits.

‘I found that interesting because more often than not, where students have excess credit is because they change majors several times,’ Clemons said.

Goldman said the university is only speculating about cuts because they’re waiting for final numbers from the Legislature. The administration is expected to have to shave off more of its budget.

‘We looked at all kinds of options and the best one was the lower number. And what the simply means is that we’re going to have tighten our belts,’ Goldman said.