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WIU Board Approves Fee Increase after Lengthy Debate

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees has approved an increase in student fees, which go to athletics and other student activities.  But the change did not come easily.

The board spent around two hours debating fees at its May 6 meeting and another two hours during a special meeting on May 18.

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The kerfuffle concerned how much Western should charge students who attend the Quad Cities campus, which is a commuter school.  They are currently assessed a lower fee than students on the Macomb campus.

Interim President Martin Abraham told trustees he sought input from faculty leadership in the Quad Cities but was spurned.

Trustee Greg Aguilar asked Joe Rives, Western’s vice president in charge of the Quad Cities campus, whether Abraham reached out to him.

“No. I was not involved. And yes, normally I would,” replied Rives.

That did not sit well with Aguilar.

“I want to be able to help support financially and make these decisions.  But if the Quad Cities isn’t involved or if we’re not communicating with each other for whatever reason, it’s tough for me to agree to anything,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar also said there is no plan for how fee revenue from the Quad Cities will be spent to benefit students on that campus.

Abraham countered that when he wants input, he doesn’t talk to other administrators.  He said he reaches out to faculty members and students.

“That’s my style. That’s my management style. And that may be a different style than the prior administration at this university and it may be a different style than one you are comfortable with. But nonetheless, that’s the way I do my business,” Abraham said.

The board eventually approved fee increases for both campuses.  The higher price will be paid by this fall’s new students.

Students in the Quad Cities will still pay less, although the university said it will incrementally adjust the amount over four years to make it equal with other mandatory fee rates.

And the administration said it will develop a plan for using that money to pay for more services for Quad Cities students.

The board approved the plan unanimously, though Aguilar had another warning for the administration. “Moving forward, I’d like to see a better effort to connect with leaders in the Quad Cities and I’m very serious about that,” he said.

Trustees had already agreed on May 6 to keep tuition at the current rate for incoming students and to hold the line on room and meal prices.

Western’s cost guarantee program means undergraduates pay the same rate for tuition, fees, rooming, and meals for four straight years.

Copyright 2021 Tri States Public Radio. To see more, visit Tri States Public Radio.