Column: ‘I can’t even’

By Sam Beard, Student Trustee

I’m not sure if I am absolutely flabbergasted or not the least bit surprised, but quite frankly, I am straight-up done with this nonsense.

With enrollment in freefall and a growing image crisis accelerated by years of administrative incompetence, the SIU Board of Trustees pulled the curtain back on their master plan to save our university—raise tuition… again.

The cost of attendance at SIUC has nearly tripled in the past 15 years and enrollment is plunging as a direct result.

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And yet, at the chancellor’s request, the board hiked tuition 2 percent and uncapped and consolidated all student fees last week.  

Okay, seriously. What the hell, guys?

In 2003 the combined cost of tuition and fees was $5521 for an entire academic school year.

Next fall, thanks to the administration, tuition and fees will be a staggering $14,121.

This is why enrollment is dropping!

I truly don’t see what is so hard to understand about this.

There was absolutely zero conversation surrounding the hike—not one board member questioned the chancellor on raising the cost of attendance.

Not one board member expressed concern that as an institution we really don’t have much ground to justify hiking our rates again.

We are in the midst of wildly controversial and divisive top-down restructuring, student constituency groups are being ignored wholesale and the campus CEO is under investigation for an ethics violation.

People are choosing to attend colleges other than SIUC at record numbers and we try to recuperate by raising the cost?

This is obscene.

I suppose it could be that the current administration is completely detatched from the reality of being a student in the twenty-first century.

I suppose it could be the careless and privileged notion that no one will even notice a two percent increase.

Or I suppose it could be some unhealthy desire to refuse to say “no” to the chancellor’s requests.

But what I do know is that this will further drive down enrollment, bolster our image as a poorly-run university and continue our legacy as an institution that extracts an increasing amount of capital from its students each year.

Way to go, team!

Let’s break this down for a second here.

At the Dec. board meeting, the chancellor said we are looking at about 930 incoming freshmen for Fall ‘18, let us be generous and make this an even 1,000 for our calculations.

That 2% hike in tuition amounts to an additional $189 dollars in per-student in tuition costs.

$189 (per student) X 1,000 students = $189,000 generated by the hike.

The rationale for adoption outlined in the agenda from last week’s board meeting states, “an increase of 2.0% in undergraduate tuition rates [is] needed to fund additional cost obligations of the university.”

Hmm, interesting, I can’t imagine what those might be.

Lest we not forget that during hiring negotiations the chancellor insisted we hire his daughter and son-in-law.

The daughter makes $52,000 a year and her husband clocks a cool $45 an hour, guaranteed in 900-hour contracts. Assuming he gets his contract renewed again (which, it should be said, he may not), the two of them combined will make $133,000 this academic year.

In lieu of this information, this newest tuition hike is a sort of salt in the wound of the powerlessness we feel in dealing with administrators.

Now, to clarify, the son-in-law’s salary comes from a different pool of cash than what tuition pays into.

But the fact remains: we are raising tuition while needlessly hiring the chancellor’s family members.

So when the rationale for adoption goes on to claim “[w]ithout this additional funding, the quality of educational opportunities for students would be diminished” we are really forced to question the legitimacy of this entire ordeal.

I bring this up not to talk smack, but to point out the obvious: the administration does not have an actual understanding of the reasons behind our enrollment crisis, as such, they do not possess insight into how to stop the bleeding.

One could attempt to make the argument that by publishing this I am aiding in the negative perception of SIU.

But this is non-sense, I have my work cut out for me in that regard.

In fact, to do nothing would surely cause more harm because this type of governance is completely unsustainable.

The emperor has no clothes! I am a mere messenger.

I cannot sit idly-by while the students that I have sworn to protect get hung out dry.

We cannot allow chronic and severe managerial missteps to be the end of our beloved institution.

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays and Thursdays: 12:30 pm – 2 pm or by appointment.

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