NEIU Finance Committee talked tuition hikes


Petr Kratochvil

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Laura Rojas, Writer

The NEIU Board of Trustees Finance Committee discussed the implementation of tuition hikes and increased fees that would go into effect fiscal year 2018.

The proposed increases made on Oct. 20 would average out to an extra $900 a year for new freshmen and transfer students according to Interim President Richard Helldobler and Board Chairman Carlos Azcoitia. This proposition, after consensus, will be brought up again to the board during their November meeting.

“I strongly believe that the work we do as part of this community, as part of our board and also the administration is key to ensuring long term financial success and stability of Northeastern Illinois University,” said Trustee Omar Duque. “But also, and possibly even more important, ensuring that we have the financial resources and human capital resources to ensure student success at Northeastern Illinois University.”

One of the larger increases in fees will be a $4.55 increase per credit hour towards campus recreation, followed bya $1.00  increase for student health services. The greatest increase proposed will be for computer resources, which Helldobler said has been in the red, meaning it has been bleeding money and not producing revenue.  

There is also a debate on whether the tuition will be raised eight, five and a half or three percent. These increases are all below the amount required to level out the school’s budget, which would be 11.4 percent—referencing back to the last time NEIU received state appropriations from fiscal year 2015—but this does not make up for the complete shortfall in budget which would require a 21.5 percent hike in tuition Helldobler said.

Public universities have been in distress due to Illinois’ budget impasse. Some universities even closed while others, including NEIU, had to make significant budget cuts and dip into reserves to stay afloat.

“We have not had an appropriation since fiscal year 2015,” Helldobler said. “Appropriations have been placed with what we call stop-gap funding.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill as recently as spring, releasing temporary funds to help keep schools like NEIU open. Since no budget has been officially set, public universities still find themselves looking for cost-saving measures with no signs of help in sight.

There is still great uncertainty about when Illinois will finally settle on a clear and true state appropriation.

“The bottom line is we just don’t know,” Helldobler said. “Or when we will actually get our next round of stop-gap funding.”

NEIU only received $13.1 million of the $19.6 million the university was supposed to receive for fiscal year 2017.

“MAP funding was not included in stop-gap, but we have fronted the money for our students in the fall, and we have every intention of fronting the money in the spring,” Helldobler said. “But it’s becoming more and more of a financial burden on the institution to do so.”

Helldobler explained that in years past roughly 70 percent of the school budget was from government funding and the other 30 percent from student tuition. In the last couple years these statistics have nearly reversed.

Several committee members were in favor of increasing tuition fees, while a few select members voiced their opinions against the increase.

“Why does the cost and increase in tuition have to be on the burden of our students,” said Trustee Darlene Ruscitti. “It’s never us, it’s them.” However, she said that she understood why the university took certain measures to reduce costs including spending freezes.

Helldobler said some of those concessions were to eliminate non-instructional positions and set mandatory furlough days.

“I think you’re right,” Duque said in response to Ruscitti’s concerns. “And I think the university has been responsible at cutting costs. At what point, though, do you cut at the expense of student success—student experience?”

“But we’ve been raising tuition every year, even when things were better, financially,” said Chair Azcoitia. “Every year—except one—I’m just wondering, ‘Will we ever stop that?’”

“To me, I look at it as this is an investment, this isn’t an expense, and that’s how I think our country should look at it. Otherwise if we don’t believe as a country in higher education, where are we all going?” said Trustee Jonathan J. Stein.

Ultimately the majority of the committee agreed with bringing the proposal of the increase in fees and the eight percent tuition hike to the higher board for further review.