CHAMPAIGN -- University of Illinois trustees voted Thursday to raise tuition and fees on the university's three campuses by an average of 11.6 percent, taking the cost of tuition, fees and housing at the Champaign-Urbana campus to about $9,450 a semester.
Over the last decade, the state's flagship university system has raised the cost of an education by more than 250 percent -- five times the rate at which Americans' incomes grew during that period and eight times the rate of inflation.
It is among state schools across the country that have ratcheted up tuition costs to help make up for dwindling government funding.
Illinois' higher-education spending has essentially been flat the last few years, hovering around $2.2 billion a year after falling from $2.4 billion in the 2003-04 fiscal year. Gov. Blagojevich has proposed $2.33 billion for next year, 4 percent less than the schools had to work with in 2003-04.
In the process, educators worry, universities could be cutting ever-larger segments of the population off from higher education.
''Are we going to be cutting off significant contributors to our society because people don't have the money?'' asked Vernon Burton, a history professor and Faculty Senate president at Illinois' Urbana-Champaign campus. ''It's very hard on the middle class now.''
As chairman of the state Board of Higher Education from 2003 through early 2007, James Kaplan oversaw the state's public universities through their rough fiscal stretch. He fears the effects are now becoming apparent.
''At this stage, you're cutting into bone,'' he said.
For faculty, cutting bone means teaching classes of literally hundreds of students, and not always under the best of conditions, Burton said. ''In 2005, I taught a class of over 700 students in Lincoln Hall, and literally in the middle of a class, a rat ran across the stage,'' he said.
State higher education funding increased 4 percent from fiscal 2005-06 to 2006-07 and would go up another 1.8 percent next year under the governor's budget proposal.
AP Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
* TUITION AND FEES: In-state tuition will increase next fall to $4,220 a semester at Urbana-Champaign (up $366), $3,712 in Chicago (an increase of $322), and $3,180 in Springfield (a $390 increase). Fees will go up to $1,397 at Urbana, $1,561 in Chicago and $951 in Springfield.
* ROOM AND BOARD: New students living on campus will pay $3,833 a semester in Urbana-Champaign (an increase of $225), $3,776 in Chicago (up $180), and $4,223 in Springfield (a $375 increase).
* THE BOTTOM LINE: Tuition, fees and housing will cost a new in-state student $9,450 a semester in Urbana-Champaign ($859 more than the school year just ended), $9,049 in Chicago (a $579 increase), and $8,354 in Springfield (an $880 increase).