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enrolling a record 7,600 freshmen.
This fall also has brought a little relief for all of the state’s
college students, especially the needier among them: a MAP
grant pot that the state has sweetened by two percent, or $8
million. The move has had the serendipitous side effect of
making the program eligible again for $3.7 million in federal
funds that it lost as a result of previous MAP cutbacks.
With a grand total of $349.7 million in MAP money this
year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission expects to
help 145,000 students with grants averaging about $2,400,
roughly the same amount as five years ago. Even with this
infusion of funds, however, the commission will continue
the rationing that hard times have forced. Besides striking
some students from the eligibility rolls, last year the agency
trimmed all grants by ten or 11 percent of what they would
otherwise have been. This year’s reduction will be an across-
the-board nine percent.
However diminished, the MAP program is still big.
Illinois, long second or third among the states in total need-
based student aid, slipped to fifth place—behind California,
New York, Pennsylvania and Texas—in the most recent
survey of the National Association of State Student Grant and
Aid Programs.
The public universities, meanwhile, remain under the
state’s budget gun, most of themwith an appropriation
identical to last year’s. The best that officials can say about
the situation is that at least they didn’t take another hit.
Northeastern’s Wilcockson spoke wearily of “a commitment
at the state level not to increase
income taxes or sales taxes…a
climate where they’re not
enhancing revenue.”
Appropriations are not
the whole problem, he added.
The state now requires public
universities to pay a greater share
of their employees’ retirement
and health insurance costs. And
Wilcockson said he has heard
talk of dumping some workers
compensation costs on the
universities next year.
This stepchild treatment has taken some getting used to
by the universities. From the mid-1990s to 2002, they had
been the state’s fair-haireds, basking in annual state funding
increases that always beat inflation by a few points. When a
legislature that had been so predictably giving began abruptly
to take away, it was a particularly stinging slap in the face.
An embarrassment, too. This was the state that sat at
the head of the class in
Measuring Up 2000
, a state-by-state
report card for higher education produced by the National
Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (which also
publishes
National CrossTalk
). It didn’t get much better
than Illinois’ A’s in three of five categories, including one of
only three nationwide for affordability. But come
Measuring
Up 2004
, Illinois had slipped back a few rows, with a still-
have caused grumbling among
parents and others who pay
college bills. When Greta
Schloemann of Herrin, in
downstate Illinois, entered
Urbana-Champaign as
a freshman in fall 2005,
her parents paid tuition
of $6,460—a rate that has
remained the same. Had she
entered in fall 2007, the charge
would have been $7,708.
However, required fees have
increased from $1,442 to
$2,174 in the same time period.
Colleen Schloemann,
Greta’s mother, said, “I still
think it (Truth in Tuition) is a good idea because it helps families with
their budgeting, but the fees are quite high and they keep going up.”
After one semester at Urbana-Champaign, Greta’s younger brother
Max transferred to Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, where fees
increased from $1,276 in 2004-05 to $2,551 in 2007-08. “Max’s total cost
is higher now than if he had stayed at Urbana,” Colleen Schloemann
said.
But Campus administrators say they have received few complaints
about the rising costs. “I don’t hear lots of noise about tuition,” saidW.
Randall Kangas, assistant vice president for budgeting and planning
for the three-campus University of Illinois system. “What I hear is
complaining that ‘I can’t get my kid in.’”
Kangas and other campus officials argue that sharp tuition and fee
increases are needed because of the decline in state support. Since the
2004 fiscal year, state appropriations for public higher education have
increased only one or two percent a year, well below the rate of inflation.
So far, the steep tuition and fee increases have encountered little
opposition from Illinois legislators. “They know they haven’t been
funding the institutions adequately, and they hope by letting the
campuses raise tuition as much as they want, that will keep them happy,”
said a veteran observer of the state’s educational politics.
Truth in Tuition is proving to be a headache for campus budget
officers, who must decide howmuch to charge students, depending
on the year they enrolled, their academic program, whether they are
covered by “truth” or not, and other factors.
“This has been something of a nightmare for our student accounts
office,” said Barbara Blake, budget officer at Illinois State University.
“What is the retention rate going to be? Howmany students are taking
five or six years to finish? Projecting what student rates should be, and
what our revenues are going to be, is proving to be very difficult.”
Said a budget officer at Northern Illinois University, “It’s very
difficult, but it’s the law and we’re trying to follow it.”
Despite the problems, Truth in Tuition is not likely to disappear, not
unless the state’s fiscal condition improves markedly.
“I do think they (those who pay college bills) wind up paying
more than they would have under the old tuition approach,” said Sue
Kleeman, director of research, planning and policy analysis at the
Illinois Student Assistance Commission. “But people are willing to pay
for certainty.”
—William Trombley
At Urbana-Champaign
there are seven
mandatory fees for
all undergraduates,
even more for
those majoring in
agriculture, business,
engineering and some
other fields.
All of Illinois’ state
universities have moved,
airline-like, to differential
pricing—different rates
for different students,
depending on when they
first enrolled.