DeKALB – Northern Illinois University has shifted from a state-funded university to a state-assisted one, in President John Peters' view.
The state has allocated about $93 million to NIU for the fiscal year that starts July 1, roughly the same amount the school received for the fiscal year about to end. Considering that Gov. Pat Quinn wanted to slash higher education funding, the outgoing NIU president said he was delighted at the school's level of funding.
"We had a flat budget, which was a miracle," said Peters, who will retire June 30.
On Thursday, NIU's Board of Trustees approved tuition rate increases of 2 percent that will affect new in-state undergraduate students and existing graduate-level students — about 28 percent of students. NIU's enrollment is usually around 22,000 students.
State funds will represent 20 percent of the university's expected $453.9 million in revenue for the upcoming school year. NIU officials have said this is the same amount of state funding received in 1995.
As state funding has dwindled, Peters said student enrollment and retention has been essential, but up to a point.
"As a state institution, our tuition costs are directly correlated to state support for NIU's operating budget," Peters said during the meeting. "We cannot possibly, and would not raise tuition to offset the state's delinquency and support levels, nor should we ever contemplate that."
Steve Cunningham, acting executive vice president of business, said the tuition increase is based on many factors, including state funding, operating costs and economic indicators.
"We're looking at a period of conservative tuition increases because of the economy," Cunningham said. "We have low inflation in the economy. Students – affordability and access are very important. We're trying to stabilize our rate of growth in tuition."
Tuition is based on the number of credit hours a student takes. Under the proposed increase, an in-state student taking 15 credit hours would pay $302.39 a credit hour, while an out-of-state student would pay $604.77. Graduate students would pay $342.33 a credit hour, while law students will pay $650.99 a credit hour.
Without taking into account any fees or room and board charges, an in-state undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours in the fall and spring will pay $9,071.70 annually.
In-state freshmen at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will pay an expected $11,834 in tuition for the 2013-14 academic year while Southern Illinois University-Carbondale will charge students $8,415 for the year.
Public universities in Illinois are subject to the state's Truth-in-Tuition policy, which locks in a tuition rate for nine semesters. If a student doesn't graduate by the end of that period, for the next three semesters they will be charged tuition rates paid by students who enrolled one year after them.
NIU officials said the policy — which does not cover graduate, law and out-of-state students — requires them to anticipate costs and funding for the next five years.
"The problem in setting tuition that we have to set the rate that will accommodate these students for the life of their stay here," Peters said after the meeting. "... You have to figure inflation and everything else in there, so you're taking a guess."