Fee increases spark discussion

Erika Ward

President Jack Thomas spoke at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Tuesday to address student concerns and receive student input on the fee increases going into effect for the fall semester of this year.

 Thomas addressed the issue of weather at the forefront of the discussion.

 “We’ve gotten off to a great start this semester,” Thomas said.  “As you know, there has been inclement weather, just know that we will not close.”

 Thomas went on to explain that on days with bad weather the school will send out weather advisories and urge students to dress warmly.  Thomas added that when visibility is low and weather conditions are dangerous,the school will consider closing or delaying classes.

 Thomas began a discussion about the recent budget cuts proposed by newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner.  Thomas reported that the Governor’s proposal is a 31 percent cut – roughly $16 million in Western Illinois University’s budget.

 “This is the early part of the budgeting process,” Thomas said.  “This is where they draw out this big figure but we hope it will not be 31 percent.  By them starting at such a high number, it’s going to affect us, and I don’t think it’s going to be good.”

 Thomas then took questions and concerns from SGA representatives before yielding to Matthew Bierman, Western’s budget director, and John Biernbaum, assistant vice president of student services-student life at Western.

 Bierman and Biernbaum handed out a sheet with the projected student fees for Western starting in the fall semester.

 “We don’t ask for what we don’t need,” Bierman said about the increases.  “These costs are real.”

 Western has proposed increasing student fees by $26.55 per semester next fall.

 The increase in fees will only affect new students due to Western’s cost guarantee agreement.

 The topic of the fee increase became a vigorous discussion due to the fact that there would be a larger increase in athletics fees than in technology.  

 Athletics will have a 5.26 percent increase, which is about $7.65 more each semester, while technology only had a 2.37 percent increase, which is around $1.50 each semester.

 Students voiced concern over athletics receiving a larger increase while technology, which affects a broader range of students, was increasing less.

 “They (athletes) are one of the biggest free marketing things that we have going for us,” Biernbaum said. Biernbaum went on to mention Ashley Luke, player for Western’s women’s basketball team, winning Academic All-American for the entire country.  Biernbaum also discussed a new school that was recently added to the conference, adding another $100,000 to the athletics travel costs.

 The fee increases were shown to SGA in hopes of getting the support of the students for the increase.  A discussion about approving the increases continued with the possibility of making an amendment to state that SGA approves of the fee increases, except for the technology increase, which some members believed should be higher.

 After further discussion, a motion was made to table the voting decision on the increases to the next meeting, which will be held next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Union, in hopes for more information about the fee amounts.