The News-Gazette

UI president talks with students about tuition, faculty raises

Friday, October 29, 2010

URBANA – President Michael Hogan on Wednesday challenged University of Illinois students to help him find ways to keep tuition low without further hurting faculty who are vital to the value of their degree.

Addressing the "800-pound gorilla" at a meeting with the Illinois Student Senate, Hogan acknowledged that the 9.5 percent tuition increase for incoming freshmen this year was second-highest among public universities in the Big Ten, and said he wasn't happy about that. But he also said the UI is second-ranked in the Big Ten.

"You're getting what you pay for," he said.

He noted that the rate over four years is 3.6 percent a year, one of the lowest in the country.

To students who would argue for a tuition freeze, Hogan said, "I will say to you, 'What will you give up?' Don't tell me, 'I will give up faculty compensation,' because you have no right to say that.

"Tell me what you will give up that won't sacrifice the academic quality of this institution, and then we'll have a real conversation," Hogan said.

Hogan said the $46 million budget cut imposed on the UI by the state this year is just about equal to the amount brought in by the 9.5 percent tuition hike. The university had hoped to spend the new tuition income to replace services that had been cut from classrooms, or provide raises for faculty who've gone without increases for two years and also taken furloughs.

The state still owes the university money from the fiscal year that ended four months ago, and hasn't paid "a penny" of the money appropriated for fiscal 2011.

"We are spending at a rate of $75 to $80 million a month. So do the math," he said. "We're already in debt by a large amount of money. We're spending money we're not getting from the state."

He doesn't expect to get any funding from the state for this year's operating budget until January or February, and "before we get much we'll almost certainly see another cut," possibly another 10 percent.

"Every dollar we lose from the state confronts us with a challenge. We either make that up in other revenue streams or we suffer deterioration in the quality of the instruction we deliver and a deterioration of the value of your degree," he said.

Hogan said he refuses to "take the costs of this forever out of the backs of the faculty. ... They'll go out the door, and if they leave your degree is going to go into the toilet."

"I don't care if I have to cut my way to a compensation package. Even if it's a modest adjustment, it has to be made."

Hogan said he came from a working class family and worked his way through college while living at home. He said it bothers him that rising costs are putting college out of the reach of students who are otherwise qualified to attend.

He said he is "absolutely resolved" to raise "millions and millions of dollars in scholarship money" to help offset costs, saying the state has broken its social compact with the university to fund public higher education.

Asked what he would do to persuade legislators to improve funding to the UI, Hogan said he is committing to going to Springfield and "pounding on the table, demanding fair treatment for the university of Illinois, reminding them what a great university does for the state."

But he added later, "In all honesty, it's not looking good for us in the state," he said.

Both Hogan and interim Chancellor Robert Easter also appealed to students to help them make the UI's case to legislators and policy makers.