University of Illinois trustees approve plan to freeze tuition at current rates for 3 campuses



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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — The University of Illinois trustees froze tuition rates for in-state students Thursday, after years of increases that have helped drive the total cost of four years on the school's flagship campus over $100,000.

Trustees unanimously approved the previously announced plan after hearing Vice President for Academic Affairs Christophe Pierre describe the tuition freeze as a way to improve the appeal of the university's three campuses to in-state students. The percentage of accepted applicants who enroll in the schools has dropped significantly over the past decade.

"Our top priority is to insure access and affordability," Pierre said. "We do want the U of I to be an attractive" option for in-state students."

The plan would freeze tuition at $12,036 a year at the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus for the 2015-16 school year, $10,584 at the Chicago campus and $9,405 in Springfield. State law guarantees first-year students at public universities that their tuition won't increase for four years, so those rates would not change over that period for students who start school this fall.

Tuition would increase by 2 percent for non-Illinois residents.

Steady tuition increases have been the rule at universities around the country in recent years. At Illinois, those increases have been significant — 71 percent at the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses since 2005 and 106 percent at the Springfield campus.

"While this (freeze) is so welcome to the students and parents, we have to be more (mindful) of the limits it imposes on our budgets," trustee Karen Hasara said.

University administrators have attributed part of the need for recent tuition increases to drops in state government support. This year, about 30 percent of the university's $5.6 billion budget comes from the state, and tuition makes up just over 19 percent. Demands for faculty salary increases to remain competitive with other universities have also been a factor in rising tuition.

The freeze doesn't apply to on-campus housing, which will increase by 1.5 percent at Urbana-Champaign to $10,332 a year. Chicago campus housing will increase 2 percent to $10,728, and Springfield's will go up by 0.7 percent to $7,350.

Including the additional fees students pay, a year on the flagship campus still costs more than $25,000 for an in-state student, and more than $100,000 for four years.

University officials have expressed concerns students are looking at other, cheaper schools.

According to university figures, the percentage of applicants accepted to the Urbana-Champaign campus who enroll has dropped from 53.3 in 2005 to 32.8 last year. In Chicago the yield rate dropped from 37.4 percent over that period to 26.1 percent, and in Springfield from 44.4 percent to 33.9 percent.

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