WIU Board of Trustees approves increases to student fees, room and board,student health insurance

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MACOMB — Starting in the fall, new students at Western Illinois University will pay a bit more in fees, room and board, and health insurance.
The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees unanimously approved the increases during a regular meeting on Friday.
New students on the Macomb campus will pay an additional 73 cents per credit hour in student fees for the fall and spring semesters, while students on the Quad Cities will pay an additional 20 cents per credit hour.
For the summer semester, Macomb campus students will pay an additional 20 cents per credit hour and Quad Cities students will pay an additional 9 cents per credit hour.
A student on the Macomb campus taking 30 credit hours over a full academic year will pay $2,725.50 in student fees, an increase of $21.90.
A student taking 30 credit hours on the Quad Cities campus will pay $746.40, an increase of $6.
The room and board rate will go up $50 per year, or $25 per semester, for new students.
Due to Western’s cost guarantee, which locks in tuition, fees, and room and board for new students who stay enrolled over four continuous years, the new rates only impact new students entering the university in fall.
The new all-cost guarantee for a new student who plans to live in a double-occupancy residence hall room on the Macomb campus will be $20,896.50 per academic year, an increase of $71.90 over the current all-cost guarantee.
At a Dec. 16, 2016, board meeting, trustees voted in favor of keeping tuition flat at $323.64 per credit hour for the 2018 fiscal year.
The room and board increase will generate about $75,000 per year in new revenue for the university, Western’s assistant director of university housing and dining services, Ketra Russell, told trustees on Friday.
However, Russell explained, that amount will fluctuate based on student enrollment, retention, and whether or not a student choses to move off-campus after a year or two in a residence hall.
Additionally, Russell told trustees, the revenue generated from auxiliary services such as room and board, as well as student fees, can only be used to support those auxiliary services.
Associate Vice President of Student Services John Biernbaum told trustees the room and board increase was necessary to counterbalance the loss of auxiliary revenue from large matriculating classes.  
Taking an incremental approach to increasing the room and board rates, Biernbaum said, also prevents the university from having to hit students with one large hike later to make up for lost revenue.
Auxiliary services, Biernbaum added, receive no state funding, and auxiliary services such as dining are market-driven.
On the Macomb campus, the increase in student fees will generate about $50,000 per year in new revenue, according to Matt Bierman, interim vice president of administrative services. As with the new revenue from the room and board hike, Bierman cautioned, the revenue depends on enrollment and retention.
Trustee Lyneir Cole questioned if the increase to student fees was large enough, given that Western, along with other public universities, is grappling with a fiscal crisis resulting from the state budget impasse now in its 21st month, on top of declining enrollment due to fewer students enrolling in four-year universities
Trustee Todd Lester told Cole he believed university administrators had done their due diligence and he had confidence in the recommended increase to student fees.
Cole asked what the estimated $50,000 per year in new student fees revenue would cover.
In response to Cole, Russell said the new revenue would be split among 10 or 12 individual student fees that pay for campus programming, transit such as the Go West bus system, and other student services.
“We worked very closely with our students through this process,” Russell said of the decision to increase student fees. “I’m not sure whether they would have had the stomach to take more than the $10.95 (per semester) that was before them.”
After discussion on the increase to student fees, Cole voted in favor of the resolution, but later raised another concern.
When the board began to discuss the increase to student health insurance, Cole made a motion to table action on the increase until the June meeting so that more cost estimates could be generated. Cole’s motion did not pass and the board continued the discussion.
Digger Oster, assistant to the vice president for administrative services, presented information on the student health insurance. He said the 15 percent hike, which amounts to $220 per academic year, was the lowest estimate the university received and that other state universities are asking students to pay for increases of 20 to 25 percent. Oster also stressed the health insurance benefits will not change, only the cost.
Following discussion, Cole was the only “no” vote on the motion to increase the cost of student health insurance.
In remarks to the Voice after the board meeting, Bierman made it clear that the additional revenue gleaned from hikes to student fees and room/board won’t offset the loss of state appropriated funds.
“These two particular changes don’t affect state resources at all because it’s not appropriated funds,” Bierman said.
“In a vacuum, it would generate $50,000 for fees and $50,000 for room and board. But that’s just for freshmen if they were to remain level.”
Amid the state budget impasse, Western and other public universities have received only a fraction of what they normally receive.
To date, according to Bierman, Western has received $38.8 million in state appropriations and the last funds were received at the end of 2016, when the state’s stopgap budget ran out. As of Feb. 28, Bierman said, the university had an income fund cash balance of $13.6 million.
“We have enough cash to operate the university through the end of this semester,” Bierman said of the university’s financial situation, “and we will go to Springfield next week and let them know what our timelines are and advocate appropriately.”

Reach Lainie Steelman via email at lsteelman@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter@LainieSteelman.

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April 1, 2017 at 01:17AM

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WIU Board of Trustees approves increases to student fees, room and board,student health insurance

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