Governor also approves line item budgeting for state’s universities
URBANA, ILL. – At a time when parents and students are struggling to figure out a way to pay the cost of a college education, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a “truth-in- tuition” bill to bring some stability to the volatile rise in college tuition costs at the state’s public universities.
“This legislation will bring stability to the cost of a college education at our public universities,” Blagojevich said at a bill signing ceremony attended by high school and college students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It has been my belief that the tuition a student pays as an incoming freshman should be the same tuition the student and his family pay as a senior. By doing this, we can help make college affordable for Illinois families.”
Under terms of House Bill 1118, beginning with the 2004-05 school year, first-year Illinois students at each of the state’s nine public universities will have their annual tuition fixed at a rate for four continuous academic years or longer if their selected degree program requires additional years.
Blagojevich, who first highlighted the truth-in-tuition idea during his budget address, pointed out to critics of the bill that Western Illinois University has successfully been able to guarantee tuition cost since 1999, which allows families to know what they need to save and to budget for all four years.
“When a child enters college it is unlikely that the family budget for college will increase each year until graduation,” the governor said. “And yet we expect families to increase outlays for tuition over those four years.”
In the past decade, tuition and fees at Illinois’ public universities have increased by an average of 103 percent – or 3.6 times faster than the rate of inflation. Last year, tuition costs and fees at state public universities rose over 12 percent. This coming school year tuition will increase by 5 percent at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an average of 14 percent for all the public universities.
“The dream of a college education is something we must encourage – not discourage,” the governor said. “Today we are doing our part to keep that dream alive.”
The governor also signed legislation – House Bill 1543 – to provide fiscal accountability to the budget process for the nine public universities by requiring state appropriations be by specific line items rather than in a lump sum as has been the practice since fiscal year 1999.
While the lump sum idea was instituted to give universities more flexibility in allocating resources, Blagojevich said it did not provide a clear picture of how state appropriated funds were used.
“Each university needs to disclose how it spends the hard earned tax dollars our citizens send to support higher education in this state,” the governor said. “This is the kind of detail I believe is necessary to develop and monitor budget plans. It’s the type of accountability the public deserves.”
Earlier this year, the University of Illinois was stung by media reports of spending tax dollars to pay for expensive charter flights and lavish dinners and the governor began prodding the public universities to trim their “bloated” bureaucracies. As part of the fiscal year 2004 budget negotiations, Blagojevich and the universities agreed to administrative cuts totaling $112 million or 8.2 percent.
In addition to the line item budgeting, the legislation requires each university – within 120 days of the conclusion of the fiscal year – to submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly documenting the institutions revenues and expenditures.
House Bill 1118 was sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago. House Bill 1543 was sponsored by state Rep. Kurt Granberg, D-Caryle, and state Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago.