WIU BOT voices concerns on raising student fees and tuition

MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) — Western Illinois University Board of Trustees met for five hours Wednesday to discuss a handful of topics, including the current interim president’s contract, fees and next year’s tuition for incoming students.

Trustees voted to not increase tuition for incoming students due to the coronavirus pandemic. Officials said the rate should stay the same at $296.10 per credit hour for undergraduate students. The cost for graduate students will also remain at $339.82 per credit hour. The board also unanimously voted not to raise room and board fees for the upcoming school year.

The measure on whether to increase fees for new students was met with the most concerns by board members. The resolution to increase student fees by $1.91 failed. This increase was supposed to go to student activities, facilities, technology and transit fees.

In an earlier news story posted by NEWS3, Executive Director of Personnel and Finance Affairs Ketra Roselib said only full time students taking face-to-face classes at the Macomb campus are required to pay the fees. Part of the new measure would require students at the Quad Cities campus to foot some of the fees as well.

“The fees seem too high at this point,” Trustee Kisha Lang said. “I believe it’s too high at this time. I would like to have a plan in place to ensure that the Quad Cities can take advantage of the activities. I would want to be somewhere physically. There should be a place before we assess this fee.”

More than 15 people wrote to the board for the public comment section, asking members to oppose making Quad Cities’ students pay certain fees and decreasing the fine arts fees and tuition waivers.

“It’s not about services or access,” Trustee Patrick Twomey said. “We have to get over the mentality that we’re two campuses. We’re one university. It has to be about what’s important to the institution. Every student should be receiving the fees if you’re part of the institution. It can’t be about what’s important to one campus or another.”

According to the budget breakdown, there would be less student fees funding talent grants, fine arts and athletics.

“The state is giving us the money to build a new fine arts building,” Lang said. “A lot of the talent grants help with diversity. Why are we cutting the things that are bringing students to our schools? Why do we keep killing our pride and joys?”

Associate Vice President of Budget and Finance Letisha Trepac said if the measure would have passed, the school would result in a projected revenue loss next year of $450,000. If the fees continue to stay the same for next school year, the university could lose nearly $1.5 million. Abraham said enrollment for next year will have to be at least 30 percent or more to not have that big of a difference.

Since the measure to set the fees for new students failed, the board agreed to hold an emergency meeting to continue the discussion. No date has been set for the emergency meeting.

Interim President Marin Abraham will soon be in negotiations to resign a contract as interim president of the university. The board voted to give Trustee Carin Stutz, chair of the BOT Finance Sub-committee to negotiate an extension to Abraham. Abraham’s current contract as interim president is set to expire on June 30. Members voted to extend Abraham’s contract until the university’s 12th president begins employment.

Nearly a dozen people wrote to the board during the public comment section about the topic of the university’s next president.

“Given the improvement on the campus, and the leadership he has shown, no reason to waste more time on this presidential search,” Terry North wrote. “It is time to accept he has done a remarkable job.”

“Leave Abraham as the interim president through June 30 2021,” NAACP President Byron Oden-Shabazz said. But then, we need to go through a true and honest process with a search.”

Macomb Alderman Gayle Carper said she opposes moving forward with a presidential search.

The board also approved to hire Greenwood/Asher to conduct the search for the next president. Back in December’s BOT meeting, members voted to spend up to $250,000 for the search.

The next BOT meeting will be June 21 and 22 at the Quad Cities campus.