A pair of Republicans at the Illinois statehouse say the University of Illinois may be getting part of the message about the high cost of a college education at their flagship campus.
The university is looking to freeze tuition, once again, for Illinois students next fall. It'd be the fourth straight tuition freeze, according to university officials.
And it is perhaps a sign that the U of I is starting to get it, according to state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. He's one of two statehouse Republicans who say the state's biggest university is finally acknowledging that it's too expensive for too many Illinois families.
"This state has lost thousands of students over the last several years to schools outside of Illinois," Righter said. "Because we have not taken more aggressive action and leaned on institutions of higher learning."
Righter said the pendulum is now swinging back on many campuses across the state as school leaders refocus on affordability.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Normal, said he too gets a sense that the mindset at the U of I is changing, though he said $35,000 a year for tuition, room, board, books, and fees is still expensive.
And Brady said he is still concerned that Illinois students might not always have a place at the University of Illinois.
"You look at that out-of0state and international freshman will increase 1.6 percent this fall," Brady said. "[The U of I] has to make that tuition freeze up somewhere. And then you have to look at fees."
University spokesman Tom Hardy said fees will go up, but added that it is too soon to tell how many more out-of-state or foreign students will arrive on campus.
Hardy did say that the tuition freeze is an acknowledgement of the high cost of a U of I degree.
"The four years of tuition freezes for in-state freshmen ... is a recognition that the affordability of a world-class college education is foremost on the minds of prospective students and their families," Hardy said in an email. "The state of Illinois is exporting too many high school graduates to out-of-state colleges, and we want to incentivize more of them to attend college here and build their futures in Illinois."
Righter said it is great that the U of I is looking to freeze tuition. But he said university spending on professors and administrators is still massive, and the school's pension costs are not being addressed.
"There is no doubt that pension issues and administrative bloat have to be dealt with. And they will be dealt with, one way or another," Righter said. "The leaders at the U of I have been able to boast and recruit ... in part because of the attractive salaries and pensions benefits that they offer."
Righter said he thinks Illinois can control costs at the U of I and still preserve the school as a world class university.
University trustees are scheduled to discuss the tuition freeze at their meeting on Jan. 18 at the Chicago campus.