By Cassondra Kirby/Editor
The university’s tuition and residence halls fee plan was unveiled Thursday – and for many students the news was bad.Eastern’s Board of Regents approved increases in tuition and residence hall rates next fall that will require students to pay at least $500 more to attend the university, and tuition for some could rise more than $1,700.
Full-time, in-state undergraduates will pay $1,666 for tuition each semester, an increase of $267. Full-time, out-of-state undergraduates will pay $5,002 each semester, an increase of $807. Full-time undergraduates from targeted out-of-state counties will pay $2,992, an increase of $477.
The Board also approved an $87-per-term increase in residence hall rental rates with some rooms costing more for additional amenities like sinks.
“I think it’s pretty silly that tuition is going up that much,” said Deborah Stamm, 18, from Cincinnati. “I don’t see why they have to raise tuition so much.”
Stamm said she and her parents are struggling to pay for her education at Eastern as it is. She said she works at a nursing home in her hometown to help pay for her education and hopes she can work more hours in light of the increases.
Stamm is not alone.
Many students either said they were directly affected like Stamm and would have to work to come up with the money, or they knew someone who was deeply affected.
“I don’t really like it, that’s for sure,” said Lowell Brock, 19, from Prestonsberg. “I just think it’s stupid, personally, because there are a lot of people that can’t afford the tuition as it is, and (Eastern) is just making it harder on those people.”
But some administrators said the increase was needed.
Eastern had its largest single-year enrollment increase in 12 years last fall. At the same time, state appropriations for 2003-2004 decreased approximately $4.5 million from what had been planned for that year, according to Ken Johnston, vice president of financial affairs.
Next year Eastern’s state appropriations will decrease more, Johnston said.
The increase in enrollment, along with the cuts in state appropriations, make it harder for Eastern to provide services, classroom space and academic programs without compromising academic quality, according to administrators.
Eastern will use the money from these increases to offset the lack of state funding.
About $1 million of the new revenue will go to maintain Eastern’s buildings, and $500,000 will be used for need-based scholarships at Eastern.
Eastern has also set aside funding that will go toward initiatives to improve the quality of the university – like new faculty positions, Johnston said.
Some members of Eastern’s faculty said the Board’s decision to increase university fees was a good one in light of state budget cuts and the Commonwealth’s financial situation.
Carolyn Siegel, professor in marketing and the chair of the Faculty Senate budget committee, said although the increase is unfortunate, it is a very necessary move at this point.
“The governor and the legislature have not fulfilled their obligations to provide a budget that has adequate funding for higher education,” she said. “There really are almost no alternatives that are left to the university. Unfortunately, if we don’t raise tuition and the fees, then we are going to have to make serious cuts in the programs – students will not be able to get the classes they need when they need them. So either way we’re putting an awful burden on our students.”
Siegel said students need to keep in mind Eastern still offers the lowest tuition in the state.
“I think that means that we have made this commitment to our students. We will keep students first, but we have to be able to operate the university,” she said. “I think it’s just a sad period because higher education is our future; we’ve got to have an educated population.”
Paul Blanchard, executive director of government relations, said the decision was a very responsible one.
Blanchard said he has spent most of the last three months in Frankfort, and tuition was a subject that came up often. Blanchard, who has been at Eastern for more than 30 years, said he is proud of what Eastern has done to keep tuition low and provide high-quality education to students.
“I think in order not to compromise that, as President Glasser said, I think we had to do what we did,” he said. “I think we still have kept tuition lower than, I believe, any other university in the state.”
Board Regent David Williams and Student Government President Kristina O’Brien were the only two of 11 Board members who voted not to pass the tuition and residence hall fee increases.
Williams, who is also the assistant director of Facilities Services at Eastern, said he agrees with Siegel and Blanchard and said state legislators left universities with no choice but to raise tuition.
Williams said the university gets its funding from three different sources-most funding coming from state and tuition dollars and some from private monies. He said because of the state cut in higher education funding, Eastern was left with no choice but to raise tuition – he only wishes the increase could have been lower.
“There’s a need for increased tuition – there’s no doubt about that,” Williams said. “I was opposed to this increase because I think it’s too large and I think we need to provide more need-based scholarships and more opportunities for the students who can’t afford that increase in tuition.”
Williams said Eastern has promoted itself on being the school of opportunity and making higher education more accessible to this region and he thinks this large of a tuition increase will compromise that.
“I’ve been here 14 years as an employee and came here in 1974 as a student and have probably been to 50 different graduation ceremonies, and at every one the president asks the group if you are the first in your family to graduate from college please stand up, and we recognize them and give them a round of applause, which tells me that that’s important to us.”
Williams said if Eastern keeps increasing tuition without providing scholarship dollars, then they are closing the door on a lot of those people.
“I should be angry with our elected leaders in Frankfort for not funding higher education like they should,” Williams said. “It truly goes back to that.”
O’Brien said she also voted against the tuition and fee increases because they were too high.
She said she understands that even with the increases Eastern will probably remain the lowest costing regional comprehensive university in the state – but being the lowest and being affordable to the region it serves are two different things.
“The increases some of the other schools are incurring, the regions that those schools serve have a higher average income and they have lower poverty rates in their district,” O’Brien said. “I hear students always say to me, ‘well, what do you expect us to do?’ because it’s not like they can go to another school and have it cost less than what we are offering here.”
She said if they can’t afford Eastern some are forced not to pursue a higher education.
O’Brien said one of the positive things she can say for the administration and for the people involved in making the decision is incorporated into what some of these monies are to be spent for. There is $500,000 designated for need-based assistance – something she said Eastern has never had but needs.
“There are other schools that do have need-based assistance, and I think that is a gigantic step in the right direction to help the people who cannot afford the tuition increases,” she said. “If there’s one thing that I am really happy to have happened while I have served in this position, it’s that.”
In other business, the Board:
o Approved a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all full-time faculty and staff.
o Approved a resolution authorizing the sale of $12,665,000 in Consolidated Education Building Revenue Bonds to finance Phase II of the university’s electrical distribution project and various deferred maintenance project.
o Learned from James Street, director of Facilities Services, that the Southeast Postsecondary Education Center in Corbin is near completion and the Health Education Center should have a temporary certificate of occupancy issued next week.
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