I began my term as Student Trustee in February 2012. Entering mid-term, amidst a heated debate regarding tuition increases for incoming students and students who have been at NEIU longer than six years, was well underway. It was first proposed that incoming students would face a 3.6% increase in their tuitions and those students attending NEIU longer than six years, going into their seventh year, would face a 6.5% increase.

Over the semester, President Hahs decreased the tuition rate increase to a more palatable consumer price index of 2.9 % for incoming students, with some increases in student fees. However, the Board of Trustees were also informed that there are some lingering pension reforms on the horizon, a factor that could push tuition up in all public Illinois universities by a percentage unknown to us at the moment.

If you have been watching politics in Illinois you may know that our great state is facing some budgetary shortfalls, to the tune of about $4 billion in unmet financial needs according to an Illinois State University Retirement Systems report distributed February 9th 2012 by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

What is painstakingly clear is that our state government, as well as our federal government, is in dire need of a new way of funding some of our integral programs such as educational aide, Medicare, Medicaid, and other necessary social spending programs to care for our future leaders, elderly, and struggling families. What other Board of Trustee members and I are not willing to do, is raise the cost of tuitions for already struggling students. It is our commitment to you as students; we place the onus of education where it needs to fall, on the backs of our state legislators.

This is why on Thursday, April 12th, 2012 the Board of Trustees voted down the measure to increase tuition for incoming students and institutional fees for all students. This will keep education at NEIU accessible to all who qualify and are accepted to our university. Note: though tuition did increase for the small population of students who stay here more than six years, it would only bring those students up to the amount which most of us pay currently. This will also help students to not linger within the university longer than they need to. Helping them complete their degree and go out into the world to become leaders for their communities.

My fellow students, though this may alleviate some of your financial worry for the moment, it does NOT diminish your responsibility to NEIU. We need all of you to step up and be student leaders. What is needed most is that you become the progressive voice of our great university by speaking to everyone who will hear you about our diverse and scholarly faculty, our commitment to hearing the students’ voices, and of course our low tuition rate and accessibility of a quality education. Our university needs students that will come here and evolve into student leaders, like many of you already have. The incoming Student Trustee, Courtney Jennings-Hope will listen to you, and she will need you to speak up to properly work for you.

Finally, as you journey near and far this summer, and possibly cross paths with congressional leaders, tell them about what this university means to you and let them know that we need their assistance to sustain low tuition costs at NEIU. Though only entrusted to speak on your behalf for a short while, it has been an honor being your Student Trustee. I thank you for allowing me to be your voice at the decision making table of our university.

By Lakeesha J. Harris – Student Trustee