Trustees hear first fee, tuition increase proposals

By Karsten Burgstahler

When trustee chairman Randal Thomas asked for questions and comments after both campuses proposed their fees Thursday in Edwardsville, he was met with the sound of silence.

That silence began the road to finalizing the university’s fiscal year 2015 fee increases. However, the trustees have only had 10 days to look at the proposed fees, and student body fee support was debated as late as Tuesday. The fees comprised part of the meeting, which also included the election of new officers.

Trustee Marquita Wiley said the board members will take time in open session to make sure they are completely clear on fees before making the final vote.


“In this day and age, there is so much attention to affordability of education,” she said. “I think this is probably one of the toughest decisions we have to make as a board as we come to this point in the year.”

Chancellor Rita Cheng proposed the fees, which include increases to seven of the university’s 14 mandatory fees, a new Student Media fee and an increase to the refundable Student Insurance fee. The increase in the refundable fee reflects rising healthcare costs nationwide, she said.

Among the fee increases were a $9 a semester increase to the Intercollegiate Athletics fee to help fund sports recruiting and scholarships, as well as an $8 a semester increase to the Student Center fee.

Cheng provided the board student body’s feedback concerning the proposed $9 per semester Student Media fee.

“This proposed new fee was embraced by the undergraduate student government to ensure the freedom of speech of the student body, according to the (Undergraduate Student Government) resolution. The (Graduate and Professional Student Council), however, did not support the fee.”

University President Glenn Poshard said the board supports the fee’s purpose.

“I think this board clearly indicated last year, when the DE was having financial problems, that they wanted to see the newspaper succeed, and this proposal is the fee increase that would put them on sound financial footing, hopefully,” he said.


Although the trustee documents suggested tuition increases for both campuses — 3 percent for Carbondale and 5 percent for Edwardsville — Poshard said the trustees do not have the proper information to move ahead with discussions.

“Because the governor (Pat Quinn) has pushed his budget message back now until March 26, and we don’t have any idea of our revenue from the state at this point in time to put our budget together, and so we can’t make a decision right now in respect to tuition rates,” he said.

Poshard said the Illinois Board of Higher Education has presented several funding scenarios, depending on Quinn’s budget proposal, expected to come out at the end of March. The amount of funding the university receives determines how much tuition must be raised to make up the difference.

“The best case scenario was a 4 or 5 percent increase (in funding),” Poshard said. “The middle ground scenario was flat funding, so I had to take from this that the governor is probably going to come out and promote flat funding.”

Cheng said the 3 percent proposal for SIU-Carbondale was based on an assumption of flat funding — no cut to appropriations but no additional appropriations. Poshard said the University of Illinois has already committed to a tuition increase equal to the cost of living while Eastern came out with no increase in tuition. Thomas said the budget proposal covers the next five years.

“I would speculate that this is going to be a more dramatic budget presentation from the governor than we have had,” Thomas said.

Thomas also kept his position as chairman after the trustees held their annual committee elections. Last year the board was unable to vote on final positions until May because they could not reach quorum, electing trustee Roger Herrin as interim chair. This year the voting proceeded on schedule with Thomas serving as chair, trustee Donna Manering serving as vice-chair and trustee Don Lowery serving as trustee secretary. Although Herrin could not be present to vote, he left a note with board secretary Misty Whittington.

“I wish to have it noted in the record that although I am not present to vote, I support General Randal Thomas for the position of chair of the board,” Herrin’s note read.

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @kburgstahler_DE or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.