U of I trustees freeze undergraduate tuition rates for 2021

Aerial view of the skyline at sunset from east side.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday voted to freeze tuition for incoming in-state freshmen and non-resident undergraduates for the 2021-22 academic year. 

Trustees also approved modest increases in the cost of room and board: 2 percent at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2.6 percent at the University of Illinois Chicago and 1.4 percent at the University of Illinois Springfield. Small increases in fees, set in consultation with students, were approved for Urbana-Champaign and Chicago. 

Trustees met virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The U of I System has now frozen tuition rates for in-state undergraduate students in six of the past seven years, part of an ongoing commitment to containing costs for students and their families, system President Tim Killeen said. Tuition rates for in-state undergraduate students were frozen from 2015-19. During the 2020-21 academic year, system leadership decided because of the pandemic to cover the costs of a 1.8 percent inflation-based increase.  

“This decision by the trustees again makes clear our commitment to affordability and our belief in the game-changing power of a world-class education,” Killeen said. “Access to the opportunities available at our universities is a critical component of the effort to drive the recovery from the pandemic and make sure students and their families are able to be full participants.” 

After Thursday’s decision, base tuition for in-state undergraduates enrolling for the first time next fall would remain at $12,254 a year at Urbana-Champaign, $10,776 at Chicago and $9,502 at Springfield.  

Under the state’s guaranteed tuition law, tuition for each cohort of incoming undergraduates remains fixed for four years. 

Tuition for most graduate, professional and online programs will also remain unchanged, rising in a few cases and decreasing in a handful of others. 

Financial aid to students has been a U of I System priority for more than a decade and continues to be through the pandemic. Institutional financial aid has more than doubled since 2010, rising to roughly $258 million a year. Most in-state undergraduates pay less than full tuition and fees at each of the three universities: 62 percent receive aid at Urbana-Champaign, 71 percent at Chicago and 81 percent at Springfield. 

“The great majority of our students are paying less than full price,” trustees Chairman Don Edwards said, praising efforts at the three universities to offer more aid to in-state students in particular. “We’re trying every day to increase the availability of aid to lower-income residents of our state, which is really high on our list of priorities as we emphasize this opportunity.” 

Undergraduate fees/housing

Also under Thursday’s vote, the cost of room and board will increase by 2 percent at Urbana-Champaign, 2.6 percent at Chicago and 1.4 percent at Springfield. This is Springfield’s first increase since 2017. 

At Urbana-Champaign, a basic double room with 12 meals and 15 café credits will cost $11,392, up from $11,168. The modest increase will help cover inflationary rises in utility and food costs, deferred maintenance and a state-mandated minimum wage increase. About a quarter of undergraduates live on campus at Urbana-Champaign and the room-and-board increase will affect only those who will be moving on campus in the fall. 

At Chicago, the cost of standard room and board will rise to $11,833 from $11,553. The increase is driven by, among other factors, inflationary growth in the costs of food and utilities. About 15 percent of Chicago undergraduate students live on campus. 

And at Springfield, the standard double room rate will increase from $10,810 to $10,960. Like at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago, inflation-driven rises in the costs of food and utilities are factors at Springfield, as well as the minimum-wage increase and other factors such as maintenance costs and moving laundry services from a pay-per-load system to being included in the housing contract. About 38 percent of Springfield undergraduates live on campus. 

Students traditionally play a role in helping to determine fees, and student Trustee Ali Mirza said changes that are being made in some fees are small and driven by requests for enhanced services or factors outside of university control. “It’s of the utmost importance to remain affordable, equitable, especially for maintaining access for Illinoisans,” said Mirza, a student at Urbana-Champaign. “Students thoroughly understood the reasoning for those.” 

Student fees at Urbana-Champaign will increase by $26 a year, or less than 1 percent. The increase is driven in part by a rise in the cost of student transportation through local mass transit. 

At Chicago, student fees will increase by $28 a year, also less than 1 percent. This increase is primarily intended to pay for enhanced an expansion of mental health services requested by students. 

Fees at Springfield will be unchanged. 

Student fees are set in consultation with committees that include students. 

Student health insurance premiums at Urbana-Champaign will not increase. Rates for Chicago and Springfield will be set at a future trustees meeting. 

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