Aviation flight students to get $2,000 fee increase

By Gus Bode

A proposed fee increase could drive tuition fees up for SIUC’s aviation flight students by 5.8 percent, pushing the total from $34,637 to $36,637.

The increase, which will be presented Wednesday with a package of other fees at the Board of Trustees meeting, is due to a rise in maintenance, fuel costs and insurance, said David NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight.

“I hate the fact that it is costing more, but I can’t help it,” NewMyer said.

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Of the program’s $3 million budget, student fees support $2.2 million and the state provides $800,000.

Conor Devine, a junior from Durango, Colo., studying aviation management, said despite the increase, students would jump through hoops to fly.

“When people want to fly, they are going to do whatever is necessary to fly,” Devine said.

NewMyer said $250,000 is budgeted every year for fuel and the recent rise in gas prices has put him in a bind.

“If fuel cost goes up 10 percent next year, that’s $25,000 I would have to recover that is not in the budget,” NewMyer said.

Another high cost is maintenance of the program’s 33 planes.

Last year the maintenance cost was between $500,000 and $600,000 to fix the aging planes, NewMyer said.

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“When you have a 20-year-old fleet, they are reaching their life limit of practical maintainability,” NewMyer said.

Students fly to Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana, NewMyer said. They must have safe planes to make these types of long-distance trips.

“We can’t just send them out there and say, ‘hope you make it,'” NewMyer said.

Another added expense is the seven new planes that were purchased for flight instruction, NewMyer said. Three of them were purchased outright but four were bought with loans, at a yearly payment of $93,000.

Insurance is another rising cost, which is a necessity, NewMyer said. Every year, airplane insurance costs the program $300,000. The price is going to increase 10 percent, or $30,000, for next year.

Jon Joseph, a freshman from Deerfield studying aviation flight management, said aviation students already spend a lot of money for the program and $2,000 is a large increase.

“I understand the increase, but a lot of us are strapped for cash and this is going to hurt a lot of people,” Joseph said.

If everything goes as planned, these increases should create an extra $40,000, which will go back to the students, NewMyer said. He plans to spend the money on new equipment for the flight students.

Although the state has a tight budget, NewMyer has developed a program priority request, which he said the chancellor and provost support.

NewMyer asked for the state to allocate $495,000 to the flight program to fix planes and other equipment. He said the state is in a budget crisis and there is no extra money for the program.

Joe Samudovsky, a freshman from Lake Zurich studying aviation flight management, said the whole aviation industry is struggling to make ends meet and the fee increases could be an added stress for him.

“It will be a burden, but I will find a way to cope with it,” Samudovsky said.

Reporter Matthew McConkey can be reached at [email protected]

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