JSU trustees: no tuition increase if state will pony up
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Apr 17, 2012 | 5152 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This space in the Stadium Towers dorm at Jacksonville State University will become familiar to hundreds of new students in the coming weeks. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
This space in the Stadium Towers dorm at Jacksonville State University will become familiar to hundreds of new students in the coming weeks. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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Jacksonville State University will be spared a tuition rate increase if the state Legislature responds to a little nudging from the institution’s board of trustees.

If the state’s lawmaking body gives the institution the same $36.1 million it did this year, tuition won’t go up. But if the state can’t come through for the university, trustees said, students can expect to see tuition rise in the fall for the fourth consecutive academic year.

At a board of trustees meeting Monday, university officials passed a resolution that states the tuition rates won’t increase in the fall. It also gives JSU President Bill Meehan the option of increasing tuition if the state cuts the institution’s funding.

“This board wishes to go on record that they want to hold tuition steady if at all possible,” Meehan said. “I think it sends a strong message to the Legislature.”

The cost of attending the university for in-state undergraduates is $255 per credit hour. A student taking four three-hour classes will pay $3,060 per semester, or $6,120 for a traditional academic year.

Alabama’s representatives and senators will begin hashing over the proposed Education Trust Fund budget, which provides funding for public education in Alabama. That budget will be introduced Wednesday in a Senate education committee, said Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery.

Attempts to reach the chair of that committee, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, were not successful Monday.

The budget, as written, proposes a 4 percent cut for all publicly funded colleges and universities in Alabama. That would amount to about $1.4 million in cuts at JSU.

Officials said they are hopeful that the board’s plan to avert cuts will be successful, but some remain skeptical.

“It is an effort to try to bargain, a but I don’t think it will work because I don’t think the Legislature will find extra money,” said William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at University of Alabama. “They would have to do level funding for everybody and I don’t think they can do that.”

It’s not likely that the post-secondary institutions will be spared the budget cut, said Love, chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

If the Legislature doesn’t come though with level funding, students will have to make up for state cuts with tuition, Meehan said.

Some third-year students said that’s increasing frustrating as tuition has increased steadily since they were freshmen.

“One of the reasons I chose to attend here was because of tuition,” said Tiffany Jennings, a junior majoring in education.

In 2011, tuition increased by 12.8 percent, raising per-hour tuition from $226 to $255. There were also tuition increases in 2009 and 2010.

The increases follow a decade of facilities improvements at JSU, including a stadium expansion project and a new dorm development.

The facilities growth will continue. At Monday’s meeting, the board announced plans to make substantial improvements to the institution’s softball and tennis facilities.

Those projects will be paid for, in part, with tuition, Meehan said.

Those improvements are just two of several capital improvements the university makes each year. Meehan pointed out that in the past year, academic buildings were out fitted with new energy-efficient boilers and roofs.

Still, students, many of whom select JSU because of its tuition rate, say they don’t mind paying more for their education if need be, but they want to know where their tuition money is going.

“Show us what different opportunities are going to be available if tuition is going to go up,” said junior Dustin Quinn, an education major.

Quinn and a small group of JSU students at the meeting Monday said it’s increasingly difficult to get financial aid and added that their student loan funding doesn’t go as far as it once did. They said they’re holding onto hope that the Legislature comes through to spare their budgets another blow.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @ LJohnson_Star.

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