Three students show at open forum on tuition

By Gus Bode

Low turnout at forum about proposed tuition increase

There are 20,933 SIUC students, and only three of them showed up Tuesday at a forum conducted by SIUC Chancellor Walter Wendler to discuss his proposed tuition increase.

The purpose of Wendler’s forum, presented at the Lesar Law Building, was to take questions and comments from students about next year’s proposed 18 percent increase, which the SIU Board of Trustees will vote on May 9.

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Wendler’s proposal would raise next year’s tuition by 18 percent or $617 for the fall 2002 semester. The following year’s increase would be 16 percent, followed by 7 and 8 percent increases.

Michael Perry, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said he was disappointed by the low turnout, though he did not go because he was in Springfield. USG has took a firm stance against the proposal and passed a resolution against the tuition increase.

Perry said one problem he sees is that many students avoid personal effort because they want USG to do all the communication with the administration.

Many students expect the student government to do its job so they can go to class and not worry about things, he said.

Michael Jarard, USG’s president-elect, said the short notice and busy schedules of students probably played a part in the low turnout. Jarard said he plans to attend Thursday’s meeting.

USG Senator Erik Wiatr said that student apathy and a lack of communication about the meeting played a part in the low attendance. Wiatr was unable to attend because of a USG committee meeting, but said he plans to attend the Thursday meeting.

Mary Wallace, another USG senator, said she wished she had known about the meeting earlier before reading the announcement in Tuesday’s DAILY EGYPTIAN. Wallace plans to send e-mails to students about Thursday’s meeting and attend the next forum.

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The student government was not notified about the forum through the administration, Wallace said.

I wish we would have been informed earlier than [Tuesday], she said.

Wendler placed an advertisement in the DAILY EGYPTIAN that ran for two days.

Despite the sparse crowd, Wendler discussed the proposed increase for a half an hour, then took questions from the students. Two of those students were Peter Normand and Ed Ford, who have both been heavily involved in student government. Karen Armour, a newly-elected USG senator, attended the forum, but said she plans to ask Wendler questions at Thursday’s forum.

Wendler said one concern he has is the low level of scholarship dollars available at SIUC, which amounts to about $350,000 a year. Wendler hopes to use some of the funds generated from the increase to increase scholarships for students.

Ford said he is concerned because of the limited state and federal dollars for aid, which will disappear more quickly with an increase.

Wendler said he wants to increase work-study programs and have students work for the University in fields pertinent to their majors, such as architecture students working for the Physical Plant.

Since students falling into the middle income range aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, Wendler said he wants to increase scholarships and work-study programs for students in that bracket.

In terms of costs, Wendler said the University’s current tuition rate of $4,253.80 is below the par of other institutions.

I’m basically saying we’re below the average, Wendler said. Based on the quality factor, I would aspire us to be second only to the University of Illinois at Champaign.

With the increase, Wendler said he hopes to see the University’s costs be between Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Wendler also wants funding from the increase to go towards improving classrooms and adding Internet and computer technology where necessary.

Some of our classrooms are deplorable, he said.

Peter Normand, a senior in architecture from Byron, said the University should consider that not every classroom will need to be fully equipped depending on the needs of the class.

We may find we don’t have to upgrade every classroom, he said.

Wendler also addressed concerns raised in the past about the money going toward administrative costs. He said that SIUC spends 17.88 percent of its staff budget on administrative salaries, compared to the 20.84 average for public universities statewide.

Wendler also stressed he would try to look for ways to improve cost levels where possible.

We want to find ways to get our jobs done with higher efficiency, he said.

Normand said that perhaps the University should look at different programs that have high growth rates to target for ways to add enrollment.

Wendler said it is too soon to name programs, but stressed that the University will begin looking for ways to helps programs that are not successful.

We’re going to look at programs that are not productive and say we need to start paring back, he said.

After his presentation, Wendler thanked his audience for attending.

I had no idea what to expect, he said.

Reporter Ben Botkin can be reached at [email protected]

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