University supports tuition freeze

By Gus Bode

University supports tuition freeze

New legislation could limit increases to 5 percent

Students at state universities throughout Illinois could pay a flat rate for tuition if legislation in the General Assembly is passed.


Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed tuition freezes that would require universities to limit increases to incoming freshman during his budget address April 9. The measure would allow students to pay a flat rate for four years of college.

However, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said while the plan sounds good, and as a parent he understands, no strategy has been released to accommodate a tuition freeze other than slashing university budgets.

“Suppose no matter what expenses are, you can’t do anything to increase revenue,” he said. “The state can give them money, people can invest in research or you have to raise tuition. Those are the only three options.”

SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler said he is behind the legislation because he knows the desire parents have to know what a college education is going to cost.

“The idea of making it clear to parents and students what tuition will be while they are studying is important,” Wendler said. “We need to have them as predictable as we can.”

He said that though it is important to carefully explain the cost of college to students and their families, but in a difficult financial pinch, like the University now finds itself, the situation could further hardships.

“If done correctly, it will be important,” Wendler said. “If not careful, it will impact previously made plans.”


Wendler made many promises to students and faculty last year while campaigning for 49 percent four-year tuition hike, including money for undergraduate and graduate assistantships and scholarships and grants.

Though the 18-percent increase and 16-percent increase for the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years, respectively, the following 8 percent and 9 percent increases have not been approved by the SIU Board of Trustees, and could flounder under the new legislation.

University spokeswoman Sue Davis said it is unclear what a tuition freeze would mean for SIUC, and administrators are still looking at its possible implications.

Bost said that if the tuition freeze were passed, the burden of tough financial times would be passed to incoming freshman. But Blagojevich also proposed a 5-percent cap on all tuition increases.

“None of us understand,” Bost said. “He presented ideas in his budget speech, but he doesn’t say the how or why.”

He said that ideally, a tuition freeze and cap are wonderful, but not practical. He said it is good for a student or parent to know tuition won’t go above 5 percent, but this leaves no avenue for universities to increase funding to counter state budget cuts.

“People believe it will force you to say you won’t invest,” he said. “But when you’re trying to compete in a market for the best education, is that really what you want? Do you want them to stop that investment?”

Wendler said that within the past 20 years, tuition increases have remained under 5 percent with few exceptions, the highest being those proposed in the first two years of his four-year plan. He said SIUC has a history of low tuition, but in keeping it too low, the University cannot provide the level of service students expect.

“We have been very conscious of affordability,” he said. “We don’t want to differ maintenance were you inadvertently harm the campus, and you don’t want to harm education.”

Reporter Katie Davis can be reached at [email protected]