Student Government Association voted April 26 to stand “firmly against” the tuition increase of 16.7 percent recommended last week by Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba.
The recommendation, which will go before the Board of Regents May 12 for approval, would add an extra $624 to in-state tuition for the 2004/2005 academic year, bringing the cost of tuition from $3,744 to $4,368 per year for full-time undergraduate students.
By a vote of 19-6-1, the Senate passed then-Executive Vice President Eric Fegan’s proposed resolution, which expresses disapproval of the tuition recommendation.
“I feel the majority of students at this university care about their education, and not much more,” Fegan said.
The tuition increase would help alleviate Votruba’s proposed budget increase of nearly $13.7 million. The university’s current budget is $125 million.
Votruba has recommended the increase in order to sustain the university’s momentum, enhance its quality and capacity, and protect against future uncertainty.
The tuition increase will offset $10.5 million of the budget increase.
Fegan’s resolution acknowledged that opposing the tuition recommendation “may result in somewhat larger class sizes and a decrease in hiring of full-time faculty,” but went on to say, “We accept these consequences and stridently prefer lower tuition.”
Fegan said that most students simply want to get a degree.
According to Votruba, that’s not the case.
“Student government is not speaking on behalf of all students,” Votruba said.
Votruba said that many students have personally talked to him and made it clear that they do not want to compromise the quality of education at the university.
SGA Vice President for Public Relations Mike Tobergta said affordability is one of the most important factors in students’ decisions to attend NKU.
“I’m not here to learn about multiculturalism. I’m not here to learn about how to expand my mind,” said Tobergta. “I’m here because I want to get an education.
“That is why I’m here. That is why a lot of people are here.”
Votruba said that he doesn’t like proposing a tuition increase of 16.7 percent, but he has to consider what the consequences would be of implementing it versus not.
“I’m doing everything I can to keep tuition as low as possible while also protecting the quality and capacity of current programs,” he said.
Votruba said it is a “difficult balancing act,” but he believes the proposed budget has done a good job keeping NKU affordable without compromising its quality.
Vice President for Administrative Affairs Joe Myers said that administrators are basing the budget increase solely upon the future of the institution.
“We can either represent the interest of the future of the university… at the sacrifice of tuition costs for the current students, or we can represent our current constituency,” Myers said.
“Maybe (standing against the recommendation) is not the best thing for the future of the university, but it is the best thing for students that are here.”
Votruba believes this claim is a “false dichotomy.” He said it is not an “either-or thing,” rather he is considering both the present and the future of university.
He said that if some SGA officials examined the budget more closely, they would realize the immediate consequences they would face next year should the university fail to increase tuition.
SGA President Chris Pace, who also serves as student regent, will take the Senate’s decision to the May 12 Board of Regents meeting.
“I think (the university is) going in the right direction,” Pace said. “Any disagreement I may have with the president is simply how fast do we need to get where we’re going.”
Fegan isn’t sure how much of an effect the Senate’s decision will have on the Board of Regents.
“I hope that the administrations will at least take the information that we’ve provided into consideration,” Fegan said.
Votruba said the proposed tuition increase recommendation is even lower than what was originally discussed with the Board of Regents, and said many regents he has talked to see it as a “responsible recommendation.”
Votruba said the board will want to hear from Pace, but it will not want to see quality compromised either.
Votruba was present at the SGA meeting while senators debated the tuition increase.
“I thought the dialogue was constructive,” Votruba said. “I thought the students on both sides of the issue made a good point.”
However, Votruba said it might have been beneficial for senators to have him actively involved in the discussion, simply to give answers to questions, not necessarily to advocate the administration’s position.
Votruba said that if invited, he plans on attending SGA meetings more frequently next year to be available for senators’ questions.