Ocotober 01, 2008
By Ashley Rueff
Two topics made UIS Provost Harry Berman pause and smile. One, was his granddaughters, and the other was students he has watched grow at UIS and move on to success.
“There's hardly anything that gives anyone as much satisfaction as seeing people move on in their lives,” Berman said.
After 31 years at UIS, he has seen a lot of students move on and a lot of changes affect the university.
He watched the university become part of the University of Illinois system, and more recently its admittance of first-year students. Now, he's watching to see if the shaky economy is going to bring about a negative change that could make it difficult for students to get an education.
Graduate student enrollment at UIS was down to 1,822 students this fall, 168 less students than last fall. Berman said its partly because they can't afford it. Increasing tuition and other economic factors are making education unaffordable.
When Berman became provost in 2005, public universities in Illinois were four years into a stretch of time when the state was cutting back on funding. Since 2001, UIS has had two years of rescission, two years of flat budgets and two years of moderate increases, Berman said.
“Its been a very challenging period,” he said. “We're grateful for the modest increase, but they're not at the level as in the late 1990s.”
Despite the lack of funding, the university is still charged with its task of educating, Berman said. To retain qualified faculty and provide students with the required services, the university had to raise tuition. Since the 2004-2005 academic year, undergraduate tuition for one year, or 30 credit hours, has increased by $3,211 to total $7,216, Berman said. And that's just tuition.
Today, a bachelor's degree costs $12,844 more than it did five years ago. Add to that commuting, housing and food costs, and it's easy to see why affording an education is becoming more difficult.
Ashley Rook, president of the Student Government Association at UIS, said students are very aware of the economic situation and how it could affect their education.
“We have a lot of students who are trying to get by paying their own tuition and fees,” Rook said. “And we're at a time in Illinois where the amount given by the state to help funds public education is really disproportionate to the amount being paid through tuition.”
Rook trusts that Berman and the administration are aware of the economic hardships some students are experiencing and that they're working to improve the situation.
Berman is working on it. He is being proactive about educating the Springfield community.
The provost is chairing the steering committee for a community program geared at preparing Springfield residents for the next stages of their lives through education. The United Way, The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and the Sangamon County Community Foundation are working together through The Continuum of Learning program to help area residents prepare themselves for economic success through learning.
“We want to maximize the potential for all residents in this area as they move through their development,” Berman said. “If you want to raise up people's life chances you have to keep them in school.”
Through education and preparation to be economically successful, a stronger economy will in turn, provide more opportunity for education in the future.