EDWARDSVILLE – The cost to attend Southern Illinois University is about to go up.

At its regular April meeting Thursday, members of SIU’s Board of Trustees approved a 5 percent tuition hike for incoming undergraduates next year.

Existing students’ tuition bills will remain unchanged.

That means in-state tuition will jump by $420, from $8,415 to $8,835. Out-of-state students will pay an additional $750, bringing their total tuition bill to $21,787.50.

“It was our desire not to have to raise tuition, but as we all know, we don’t control money from the state of Illinois,” said Board Chairman Randal Thomas. “The state budget is beyond our control. We must live with what we’re given there.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed slashing state university funding by 31.5 percent next year -- a move that, if passed by the General Assembly, would result in $32 million in lost revenue next year while setting SIU’s budget back to levels unseen since the 1985-86 school year.

The hike will generate an additional $162,000 in revenue for the university.

Administrators have said it would have taken a 4.7 percent increase for the university to break even on tuition revenue next year. That’s thanks to a 2-year-old tuition waiver program created in an effort to increase enrollment.

Total tuition revenue will decrease year-to-year until this year’s sophomores, the first to receive the waivers, become seniors and the program has been rolled out to each subsequent freshman class.

President Randy Dunn had proposed a 6 percent increase to the board, but at the meeting, held on the Edwardsville campus, board members said they agreed that number should be lower.

“This was intense discussion, not only in committee, but with the entire board, and this has been ongoing, so please, please be crystal clear, this was not taken lightly,” said Finance Committee Chairman Roger Herrin.

Herrin said board members “settled on” the figure during a full board meeting on Wednesday. The meeting agenda, posted on the board’s website, did not include a tuition discussion as an agenda item.

Thomas said board members unanimously voted to add the item at the last minute, after they had completed a closed session.

Dunn and Thomas said, even with a 5 percent increase, SIU remains competitively priced.

SIU ranked the fifth most expensive of Illinois’s 12 state universities during the 2013-14 school year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.

The board also passed a 5 percent tuition hike for incoming Edwardsville undergraduates, a 6 percent increase for graduate students and a 7 percent increase for School of Law students. Undergraduate housing costs will increase by 3.1 percent next year, or $302.

Student health insurance, fees

A new, more expansive student health insurance policy also met with the board’s approval. Students will pay an extra $296 next year for a plan that, for the first time, offers prescription coverage, optional spouse/dependent coverage, free birth control and expanded mental-health and preventative care. Students can choose to opt out of the plan.

Mandatory undergraduate fees will increase 0.51 percent next year, to $2,974.

All told, the cost of an in-state undergraduate education at SIU will jump by 3.5 percent next year, from $21,068.04 to $21,805.04, an increase of $737. Out-of-state students will pay $34,757.54.

At the meeting, board members also voted to:

• Re-establish the position of vice chancellor of student affairs. Dunn said an existing administrator will take on the role, at least for now.

• Appoint Yueh-Ting Lee as dean of the Graduate School, with an annual salary of $155,004.

• Award contracts totaling $641,729 to two Murphysboro-based contractors, Samron Midwest Contracting, Inc., and W. J. Burke Electric, Inc., for parking lot renovations.

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Sarah Graham is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering higher education and Union County.

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