Should admission requirements for the U. of I. place less emphasis on ACT scores and more emphasis on other factors?
That's a question members of the U. of I. Board of Trustees asked university administrators to study after a discussion of student recruitment and retention at the Jan. 24 meeting in Chicago.
Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a 1.7 percent tuition increase for in-state freshmen entering fall 2013 - the smallest increase for UI tuition since 1994 - and passed increases in student fees and campus housing rates.
Board chair Christopher G. Kennedy suggested the university take a fresh look at "what issues are considered in relation to admission to the university, recommend changes to current policy that tie admissions to success, and articulate what we mean by success."
"Our policy says the ACT is the primary consideration for admission," said University President Bob Easter. "What should be our goal? Is it to focus on criteria that are predictive of success that may not include these factors? These are fundamental questions that affect the future strategy and vision of this campus (UIC) in particular."
The tuition increase, passed at the board meeting in Student Center West, matches the current rate of inflation.
"This modest increase will help us be competitive in student recruitment," said the Christophe Pierre, university vice president for academic affairs. "It also allows for necessary investment in essential academic quality."
The relatively small increase means the university must closely contain costs, but it will sustain financial aid programs, Pierre said.
The guaranteed four-year tuition is the equivalent of a 0.7 percent increase per year during the four years that rates are locked in under the state's guaranteed tuition law. The tuition guarantee, a state law that took effect in 2004, sets tuition rates for public universities for the four years required to complete most undergraduate degree programs.
The recommended increase follows a policy passed by the board two years ago that aims to hold down costs by limiting increases to an index of the cost of living, barring significant reductions in state funding or other university support.
Tuition rates set for incoming in-state freshmen next fall:
- Urbana: $198 increase to $11,834 per academic year
- UIC: $174 increase, to $10,406 per academic year
- UIS: a $158 increase, to $9,248.
In dollars, the increase would be the smallest since the 2000-01 academic year in Urbana and Chicago and the smallest since 2001-02 in Springfield.
In a statement released by the university, Easter said the tuition proposal was achieved with the help of ongoing cost-cutting efforts that have netted more than $50 million in annual savings over the last three years.
"Last year, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant universities like the U. of I. and opened the doors of higher education to the children of all social classes," Easter said.
"It helped fuel the most dramatic social and technological advances in our nation's history, and it is critical that we ensure those same opportunities for new generations of students."
U. of I. tuition increases have decreased over the last several years. Last year's increase for incoming, in-state students was an average 4.8 percent. Tuition rose 6.9 percent for 2011-12 and 9.5 percent for 2010-11 to help offset steep declines in state funding. The university's annual state appropriation, which covers day-to-day operating costs, has decreased nearly 23 percent - or about $180 million - since fiscal 2002.
Pierre said that although the university hopes to hold future tuition increases to the rate of inflation or below, significant reductions in state funding could lead to larger increases.
The board decided last year to set tuition rates for the upcoming year in January, to make the planning process easier for families and allow more time to arrange financial aid.
Undergraduate Fees / Housing
The board also passed increases in room-and-board rates and student fees for the next academic year.
Housing costs for next year:
- Urbana: Undergraduate room-and-board costs, based on the standard double-occupancy room and 14-meal-per-week plan, will rise 3 percent ($291), to $9,979 per year. Room-and-board costs are locked in for up to four years if students continue to live in campus residence halls.
- UIC: Double-occupancy room and 14-meal plan will increase 2 percent ($201), to $10,261 per year.
- UIS: The cost for a double-occupancy room in Lincoln Residence Hall with a full meal plan will rise 4.9 percent ($480), to $10,350 per year
Student fee increases (not including student health insurance rates, which are usually set in March):
- Urbana campus: 1 percent, or $30, to $2,916 per year
- UIC: 1.5 percent, or $44, to $2,948 per year
- UIS: 6.1 percent, or $110, to $1,892 per year, largely as a result of a student-authorized increase in a library technology fee
Complete information on undergraduate and graduate tuition for next year is available online.