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Rising tuitions hurt middle class students most at University of Illinois

By Christen Grumstrup/For CU-CitizenAccess -- As tuition rises at the University of Illinois, the middle class student is facing the most financial pressure, say financial aid officials and students.

Sandy Street, the director of the University Office for Planning and Budgeting for all three university campuses, says that the middle class is most affected by tuition cost because they are the ones that “don’t get the state aid.”


“Certainly the cost has been shifted,” said Street, when asked about the University of Illinois tuition increases. The cost has been shifted from the state to the students and family members of the University, and with that, “our concerns are shifting.”

But Daniel Soso, last year’s student representative from the Urbana-Champaign campus to the university Board of Trustees, said that despite those concerns, the middle class is being overlooked by the university.

He said some middle class families can’t receive financial aid even though they will spend tens of thousands of dollars their son or daughter’s college education.

Soso also has some concerns with the rising tuition at Illinois.

“I personally thought it cost too much, and wasn’t shy about it,” said Soso, when asked about how he felt during his time as student trustee.

Dr. Randall Kangas, the Associate Vice President for the University Office for Planning and Budgeting, said that the poor economy and late state payments to the university can indirectly lead to tuition increases.

“There are uncertainties with the economy, uncertainties with the timing of the states payments,” said Kangas. ‘

He said the uncertainties all have to be taken into account by the Board of Trustees when deciding on next year’s tuition.

Kangas said financing a university is extremely complicated, but “there are a lot of good people doing a lot of really good things to make it work,” and that the University of Illinois does offer a range of scholarships to benefit a wider variety of students. What did he say about the middle class?

Fourteen percent of the students here are on full scholarship or full financial aid, while 10 percent of the students pay between $1 and $2,999, 22 percent pay $3,000 less than the full tuition price and 54 percent of the students pay the full tuition and fees, according to the Background Information Concerning Tuition and Financial Aid Report for 2010.

Soso, however, is not impressed by these numbers.

In his speech on tuition presented last year to the Board of Trustees he said, “the fact that most students don’t pay full tuition is a great message to proclaim, but weakens when you look at the actual numbers.”

“Sustaining academic quality” and maintaining its “esteemed reputation” were also both cited as reasons for increasing tuition for the upcoming year, according to the Board of Trustees 2010 Report.

Soso disagreed with the Board’s justification for raising tuition in order to keep quality. He said the University is “constantly chasing” better rankings and better quality, but believes that increasing tuition overall decreases diversity.

Hannah Ehrenberg, this year’s student trustee agrees that raising tuition at Illinois negatively affects the University. She said  the institution is getting too expensive for qualified students to attend.

Soso said the University of Illinois wants to be known as “the Harvard of the Midwest,” but disagrees with that aspiration: “Lets face it, there is a Harvard, and it’s not in the Midwest.”

Soso said the University of Illinois is “a great school” and does not need constant tuition increases to make it better.

“Lets be what we are and lets be good at what we are,” she said.

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