Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Campuses: How the DOUBLE Tuition Freeze Benefits SIU-E

In the past week, SIU President Glenn Poshard announced a tuition freeze for next year's incoming freshmen. Concerned with the "rising cost of tuition," our distinguished state legislators passed a Truth in Tuition Act that already freezes the freshman tuition rate for a four year period. In other words, the price you pay in Year 1 is the same price you pay in Years 2, 3, 4.

One would think that the unreliability of state funding (which will be cut next year) would raise the risk premium on anything with a four-year maturity, including tuition. That's the way bond markets work, for example, but apparently risk is an economic variable not factored into the popular mantra of affordability. Indeed, SIU boasts that it leaves students with one of the lowest debt loads of any state university in the country (see below). It is difficult to see how much more "affordable" we can be unless we give college away for free.

SIU cited the following factoid from U.S. News & World Report:
"SIUC ranked 14th nationally in graduates who leave school with the least amount of debt. Thirty-seven percent of SIUC's grads are in debt when they graduate, with the average amount being $12,413."
To wit: We are giving college out for free to many students (although only 45% will graduate over six years). Pell and MAP grants cover the cost for "needy" students. This sounds like a good thing but it makes SIUC dependent on continued state funding of the MAP grant program, along with direct state subsidies. This year's MAP grant fiasco should have awakened Salukis to the reality that we need

*More paying students (not just those with money from the state)

*Higher tuition -- but the tuition freeze eliminates that option.

Bottom line:

*No state money

*MAP grant money is unreliable

*Tuition freeze = tuition cut (expect some inflation with a recovering economy--unless SIU is expecting four years of economic stagnation and zero inflation).

While folks at the Carbondale campus are desperate for funds, they are downright giddy about the tuition freeze at our ever-expanding Edwardsville campus. Here's why:

The Edwardsville campus tuition and fees = $8,336

The Carbondale campus tuition and fees = $10,411

In short, at the undergraduate level, SIU's two campuses are competing with each other and the freeze only enhances the Edwardsville advantage. Little wonder that their enrollment is booming while Carbondale's is in long-term decline. The above links suggest that SIU-E is far less dependent on students who need state grants. Their facilities are newer, they are close to an urban center -- AND they cost significantly less.

Perhaps I am missing something (?) but no one has ever pointed out the significant cost differential between the two campuses. Obviously, parents and students have figured it out; they are voting with their feet for SIU-E.


Anonymous said...

SIUC has a very large research mission, with many masters' and doctoral programs, while SIUE is primarily undergraduate with a few masters' programs. Graduate, and especially doctoral, programs are expensive, both because graduate students receive focused, one-on-one time with professors (like reading 500 page dissertations and writing detailed comments on them)and because professors must stay abreast of their fields, researching, publishing, and providing service (like reviewing book and journal manuscripts and grant proposals) to their disciplines. Undergraduate teaching is much cheaper in terms of cost for credit hour, and faculty tend not to be involved in research and therefore generally do not do much grant writing or publishing nor do much disciplinary service. So they generally teach heavier loads.

i-History said...

You state an obvious fact. However, we have a problem with undergraduate enrollment. We NEED -- and cannot ignore -- the disparity in tuition/fees and enrollments. As I noted, the State has left us with only one source of income to stay afloat: GET MORE STUDENTS.

Besides, how to explain the steady decline in SIU enrollment over the years, even when just about every other school was on the rise (not just SIU-E)?

Anonymous said...

It is definitely an issue that MUST be addressed, but you cannot ignore the fact that the other state schools are also losing enrollment. This is not only an issue at SIUC, and you cannot claim that only SIUC is flawed in that regard. However, something does need to be done about this... but what? Lower fees? Paycuts? Is it possible to do so and keep the entire university afloat?

i-History said...

Most other schools have seen increased enrollment. Leaving that aside, the blog noted that "A Tale of TWO Campuses" -- and the other campus is doing fine (really fine) in terms of enrollment. Bottom line: at Cdale we forget that what is frozen here is frozen there.

Other than political influence, I've never heard how we can use this two-campus "system" to the benefit of both schools. If SIU-C carries the research weight (and higher costs) is it possible to cross subsidy? Or transfer personnel from the declining campus to the growing campus? After all, the "system's" enrollment is up all these years but the gains have come at SIU-E and the losses at SIU-C.