Embattled local university board holds meeting, hikes tuition

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Two new faces joined the SIU Board of Trustees Thursday morning for their first official meeting.

Dr. Shirley Portwood and former head of the Illinois National Guard, General Randal Thomas are those new additions.

Back in February, the Illinois Senate rejected three of Governor Pat Quinn's appointments to the board. That led to two failed board meetings in recent months and fighting among trustees.

General Thomas was quickly and unanimously named chair Thursday morning.

One of the first items of business included tuition and fee increases for both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

A more than four hour-long meeting ended with the board voting to hike tuition at both campuses.

SIU-Edwardsville administrators initially proposed a seven percent hike. The board allowed five percent.

SIU-Carbondale administrators asked for a five percent increase. The board gave them three percent.

SIU-Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng appeared noticeably discouraged after the vote. She said budgets had already been put together for the next year accounting for a five percent increase.

Regardless, Cheng said they will work through it.

"We will definitely have challenges on the Carbondale campus because of the costs of a research institution, but we also are really energized by the growth in new freshmen," said Cheng.

You may remember SIU-Carbondale has struggled with sagging enrollment in recent years. The chancellor said improved marketing strategies have freshman applications for the next school year at an all time high, topping 14,000.

The board had to act on tuition and fee increases Thursday because their next meeting is not scheduled until July.

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