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U. of I. hikes tuition 1.7 percent for incoming freshmen

The University Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Updated: January 23, 2014 3:37PM

Freshmen at the University of Illinois will have to dig deeper this coming fall to pay after the university’s board of trustees approved a 1.7 percent tuition hike at a meeting Thursday.

Starting in fall 2014, the base yearly tuition for in-state students will increase to $12,036 in Urbana-Champaign, $10,584 in Chicago and $9,405 in Springfield.

The university said the increase — the second year in a row for a 1.7 percent increase — is in keeping with inflation and would translate into an 0.7 percent increase per year during the four years that rates are locked in under the state’s guaranteed tuition law.

Following a 9.5 percent increase for 2010-11, tuition rose 6.9 percent for 2011-12, 4.8 percent for 2012-13 and 1.7 percent for 2013-14.

Fees and housing costs also are slated to increase.

With all the increases combined, the total in tuition, housing and fees would amount to $25,086 on the Chicago campus, a jump of $487 from last year. The total would be $22,661 at the Springfield campus, a jump of $536 from last year, and $25,708 at the Urbana-Champaign campus, an increase of $471.

Housing expenses will go up by 2 percent to $10,180 in Urbana-Champaign; 2.5 percent to $10,518 in Chicago and 2.9 percent to $10,650 in Springfield.

Fees for freshmen will jump 2.3 percent, or $68, to $2,984 a year at the Urbana campus, and Chicago’s fees will rise 1.7 percent, or $52, to $3,062 per year. At Springfield, fees will increase by 4.1 percent, or $78, to $1,970 per year, due largely to an increase in the health services fee.

Even though the tuition increase reflects only the cost of living, the university faces tough financial hurdles because of the state’s dire fiscal situation and lowest-in-the-nation job growth.

Chris Kennedy, re-elected as the board’s chairman at the annual meeting on Thursday, said the university could provide 4,000 students with free tuition if the state government would pay its bills on time.

“If the state didn’t owe us $500 million, we could invest for the long term,” Kennedy said. “We could get expected returns of 8 percent. The average tuition is $10,000 at UIC. (So) we could provide free tuition for 4,000 students if the state would pay us on time.

“There is a real impact of not getting paid — and that’s our inability to compete with other institutions,” he said. We could compete by theoretically providing 4,000 scholarships, free ride.”

Kennedy, who has served as the university board’s chairman since late 2009, is the former chairman of Merchandise Mart Properties and recently founded Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that aims to get discounted groceries to families who live in areas that either lack grocery stores or have an abundance of fast food.

University officials outlined details to the trustees’ meeting of Illinois’ tough times: The state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national rate (8.7 percent for Illinois in November compared with a 7 percent national unemployment rate) and Illinois’ job-growth outlook is the worst in the nation.

Professor Richard Dye, an expert in government finance and taxation, said that Moody’s Analytics forecasts Illinois will be last among the 50 states in job creation this year, adding only 57,000 jobs.

As for the university, it is saddled with $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance with no hope for money from the state for capital improvements, said Walter Knorr, the university’s comptroller and chief financial officer.

The university also must start posting on its books its pension liability, totaling $6.2 billion, Knorr said.

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