UI aims for affordable education

As the University comes closer to recommending next year’s tuition rates, the cost of education is on President Robert Easter’s mind.

The board met on the Springfield campus on Thursday, and Easter made his opening remarks on the subject, citing a 123 percent increase in tuition costs since 2002 in the face of lacking state funding. He said he believes it is the University’s responsibility to keep education affordable and accessible.

“Access is truly one of the attributes that defines the land-grant University,” Easter said. “Sustaining accessibility for all young people, all who desire to enroll and are qualified to, is something that’s truly important.”

Later in the meeting, Springfield Susan Koch, campus chancellor, presented the basic planning and budgeting statistics of her campus. This presentation sparked further discussion on tuition and financial aid. 

Christopher Kennedy, board chairman, asked Koch how the University of Illinois could attract and compete for excellent students who get offers to attend other universities for free.

Koch replied that Kennedy’s question is one that is being discussed at many different levels throughout the University of Illinois, and she is unsure of an exact answer. However, she said she believes that students “understand the value of a University of Illinois degree” from any of the three campuses.

“I think that we have a tremendous educational experience to offer, and our focus on excellence really does sustain us,” Koch said. “We also do offer some very fine scholarships to really exceptional students. So I think we are, at least to some degree, competitive for those types of students.” 

Avijit Ghosh, business professor at the Urbana campus, said there is very intense competition among schools for the top students. But he said it takes more than money to reach these top students — opportunities and programs offered play into a student’s attraction to a school.

Although Kennedy said he agrees that students are willing to pay more money for a school with better programs, he said the University still needs to “raise scholarships, so we can be competitive and lower our pricing.”

Despite increasing applications, Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise said the take-rate, or the percent of students who accept the University’s offer to attend, is decreasing.

“The primary reason that they give us is because someone else has offered them a better package that includes tuitions, fees, books and housing,” she said. “We have to compete for those very fine students.”

Also at the meeting, Maureen Parks, associate vice president for human resources, presented the board with a summary of the new sexual harassment and protection of minors policy. This policy was initiated by former University President Michael Hogan last December after the child abuse scandal at Penn State.

Parks said all incoming students, including transfer students, will be required to participate in a sexual harassment program. University employees will also be required to participate and repeat the program every three years.

In addition, more University employees, especially those who work closely with minors, are now required to receive background checks, Parks said.

She said the next steps to improving this policy include the implementation of a communication plan in the near future.

Lauren can be reached at rohr2@