Our Word: Students to the rescue

By Gus Bode

The call is out once more for SIUC students to shoulder the weight during a fiscally challenged time.

Administrators admittedly need students to do more than go to class and graduate. They need them to save the university. A proposal is on the table to raise student fees – two of them by 100 percent – next school year.

The $552 in extra fees, alongside a 9.3 percent tuition boost for new students, is meant to aid a school reeling from problems inside and out.

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Interim Chancellor John Dunn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Larry Dietz and Athletic Director Mario Moccia stated their case to the Undergraduate Student Government Wednesday. They said the cash is needed to take care of extra expenses, and declared that the quality of campus life was on the line.

Unsettling words from some of this school’s leaders, who are among a group chided for having no marketing plan and shoddy communication. It would seem as if SIUC’s top Dawgs brought these monetary woes on themselves. In this case, the university can’t be blamed for everything.

Financial assistance from the government is at a low and the state is requiring the university to pay for military veterans’ education without reimbursement. Utility prices are skyrocketing and a considerable minimum wage increase is on the way.

Simply put, times are tough. Cash is slim. But SIUC cannot point the finger solely at outside forces. Part of the blundered budget is the university’s fault. In particular, plummeting enrollment brings an obvious loss in dollars. Officials have estimated that every 100 students translate into $1 million in revenue.

Enrollment was down by 438 students in the fall and 528 this semester when compared to a year earlier.

Do the math. It’s not pretty. If the university expects students to pay up without revolt, it needs to make this the best SIUC possible.

The fee increases a necessary proposal. But the university needs to do something in return. That brings up Saluki Way. The two fees proposed to raise 100 percent – the Athletic Facilities Fee and Student Services Facility – will do directly into the project, a massive overhaul of the campus’ east side that includes a new football stadium and student services building.

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The vision is grand, but the money is not yet there. Moccia said about $600,000 – contradictory to SIU President Glenn Poshard’s $500,000 estimate last week – is on hand for the project.

Not too impressive considering Saluki Way is slated to cost millions. This project cannot fall squarely on the students, especially if they are making up for the university’s shortcomings. Saluki Way fundraising so far is substandard and no donor will bite until officials come up with some definite material that shows the project is on track.

The SIU Board of Trustees is likely to approve the fee increase proposal. Only two of its members in May 2006 voted against raising students’ bills, and the board is almost certain to allow the latest increases unless it decides to force the university to come up with another solution.

SIUC should go at these increases like they are on a team with the people who’ll provide the nuts and bolts of this project. Then, students won’t think they’re just getting the screws.

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