Chesterton Tribune

Lawmaker wants answers on soaring Indiana college tuition

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By Lesley Weidenbener,

Franklin College News Service

INDIANAPOLIS – The chairman of the bipartisan State Budget Committee has ordered officials from the state’s public universities to appear before the group Thursday to justify recent increases in their tuition and fees.

“I have called this hearing because I am concerned about the affordability of higher education in this state,” said Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, who chairs the budget committee. “Public universities must remain affordable for the average citizen. The recent tuition hikes reduce affordability and therefore warrant a serious public discussion.”

The Indiana Higher Education Commission sets non-binding tuition targets for public universities. This year, the commission recommended tuition and fee caps that would have held the majority of Indiana college campuses at or below a 2.5 percent annual increase with no college exceeding a 3.5 percent cap for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.

But some colleges exceeded those targets.

At Ball State University, trustees voted to increase tuition and mandatory fees for full-time undergraduate Hoosiers by 3.9 percent for the current academic year and an additional 4.9 percent for next year.

Indiana State University approved tuition and fee increases of 3.5 percent for each of the next two years, the lowest percentage hikes since 2000. But the Indiana Higher Education Commission had recommended increases of no more than 2.5 percent.

Other schools, however, generally met the targets.

Indiana University approved tuition increases of about 3.5 percent for each of the next two years for in-state, undergraduate students at its Bloomington campus. The tuition and fees at regional campuses are up 2.5 percent.

Those rates were in line with the state commission’s targets.

The same was true at Purdue University, where the board boosted rates by 3.5 percent as well. However, Purdue is also phasing in a new fitness and wellness fee, starting with $91 per student this year.

Espich said Tuesday he wants all public university presidents and representatives from their boards to explain to the State Budget Commitee why they believe that their tuition hikes were justified. The committee has five members – a Democrat and a Republican fiscal leader from the House and from the Senate and the state’s budget director.

According to Espich:

• In-state undergraduate tuition rates at Indiana’s public universities have increased an average of 122 percent since 2000.

• The average in-state undergraduate tuition rate equaled less than 12 percent of per capita Hoosier income in 2000 but is expected to equal nearly 19 percent of per capita Hoosier income in 2013.

“This far outpaces the rate of inflation and, most importantly, the growth in Hoosier incomes,” Espich said in a statement.

“Each year, our economy requires more college-educated citizens,” he said. “Yet each year, tuition becomes less affordable. The trend that has taken place over the last 10 to 13 years is unsustainable. If we continue at the current pace, we will one day reach a point where a college education becomes unaffordable for the average Hoosier.”   

Thursday’s hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 404 of the Statehouse.




Posted 9/7/2011