CARBONDALE -- Existing student fees can no longer be assured safe haven at SIU. 

After approving a new student media fee and increasing the intercollegiate athletic fee in June, the SIU Board of Trustees served notice that each of the school's fees will be analyzed to determine which ones continue to serve their original purpose.

Those that no longer fulfill their stated mission will be eliminated.

"Our concern is when fees are put into place, are they analyzed to determine whether they need to continue," Donna Manering, board vice-chair, said. 

Rising fees

Fees have skyrocketed at SIU over the last 10 years, almost tripling since 2003.

Students paid $3,527 in fees for the 2013-14 school year, compared to $1,276 in the 2003-04 school year, according to the Institutional Research and Studies Factbook.

The majority of the increase took place over a two-year period, with fees increasing by 30.6 percent in 2006 and 28.4 percent in 2007.

To help fund Saluki Way -- a project that included raising money to build Saluki Stadium and renovate SIU Arena -- the intercollegiate athletic fee jumped from $9.42 per credit hour in the fall of 2005 to $18.42 per credit hour in 2007, according to the SIU catalog.

This coming fall, students will pay $26.25 per credit hour or $315 per semester for the athletic fee.

The student center fee has doubled since 2003, rising to $11.67 per credit hour, and the student recreation fee has increased almost $5 per credit hour to $11.22.

The student medical fee has also increased significantly, but the increase is probably due more to external factors related to rising healthcare costs.

The fee has gradually risen from $264 per semester in 2003 to $620 last year. Some students are exempted from the $405 student insurance portion if they maintain qualifying personal insurance.

Only Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois-Chicago have higher fees than SIU among Illinois' 12 publicly-funded Illinois schools, according to the Factbook.

New fees

The number of fees, not including specific degree program fees, has also increased from 10 to 14 since 2006.

The student services fee was instituted in 2006 at $1.67 per credit hour. The fee helped fund the new Student Services building, another Saluki Way project.

Since 2009, the student services fee has cost students $6.67 per credit hour or $80 per semester.

A facilities maintenance fee also began eating into students' bank accounts or for some, adding to their student loans, in 2007.

Originating as a $12 per credit hour fee, it partially covers utility and facility maintenance and improvement costs has increased to $18.50 per credit hour or $222 per semester.

Other fees hitting the books in the past decade include a $6 per credit hour information technology fee that was put in place in 2006 and an 84 cent per credit hour green fee that was instituted in 2009.

SIU also charges a $3 student-to-student grant fee, a $6 student attorney fee, a $3.79 per credit hour student activity fee, a $0.72 per credit hour campus recreation fee, a $4.95 per credit hour revenue bond fee and a $4.00 mass transit fee. 

Analysis will begin soon 

With Paul Sarvela in place as acting chancellor, President Randy Dunn said work on the fee analysis will begin soon.

"The board instructed us to do a full and comprehensive review of all fees that we have in place," Dunn said. "So that's going to be a pretty sizable job. We'll get that work underway very quickly, given Dr. Sarvela's appointment."

But Dunn also cautioned the analysis will be a long process.

"I don't anticipate having recommendations or a report per se until we get into the first of the new calendar year," Dunn said. "We're going to need a pretty good amount of time to look at everything we're doing fee-wise because we have a lot of them."

He said setting up a criteria that will determine each fee's appropriateness and effectiveness will be the first work in the analysis process.

Given SIU's transition period, there's no better time than the present to take a long look at the rising fees, Manering said.

"It's really a good time because we have a new president and an acting chancellor, with an opportunity to look at the overall picture," Manering said.

The board is seeking recommendations for the 2015-16 school year

Fixing enrollment declines

With enrollment plummeting from over 20,000 students in the fall of 2010 to 17,964 students in the fall of 2013, the board is attempting to rein in the cost of an SIU education to attract more students to Carbondale.

"We do want this to be an affordable education. Some of the issues are federal and state funding have been diminished or kept at a level range," Manering said.

"Somebody has to pay for the education. We would just like to attract students to SIU because we're affordable and they can attain an excellent education at SIU."  

Tuition freeze 

Earlier in the year, the board took a first step toward controlling costs by freezing tuition for the first time since 2010.

SIU's tuition has almost doubled at SIU, with incoming freshmen paying $8,415 this school year compared to $4,245 in the 2003-04 school year.

Even with the increases, SIU's tuition remains almost $2,000 cheaper than Illinois State and $3,000 cheaper than University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

SIU Edwardsville is almost $800 cheaper than SIU, with Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University having comparable tuition to SIU, according to the Factbook.

"The board took a very aggressive position to say we're going to hold the line on tuition, we're not going to run up these rates for tuition and fees for our students, and I've been trying to publicize this," Dunn said.

"This is something the entire nation is looking for universities to do and our board took the brave stance and said, 'We're going to hold the line this year.'"

Chris Hottensen is the entertainment and features reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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