The cost of higher education isn't one size fits all. Instructional requirements are more costly for some disciplines than for others. Course work in engineering and business, for example, comes with a much higher overhead than does a general studies curriculum.
Many of these programs are in high demand, and not just because at the University of Illinois they are ranked among the best in the nation. Graduates in the sciences, engineering, business and other high-demand curricula also tend to be in greater demand by employers and have significantly more career earning power.
A truly world-class education is driven by quality and demand.
In recent years, tuition schedules have evolved to reflect those market realities. Rates that were once applied across the board are now tempered by a principle of fairness. Students in high-demand, high-cost programs and with prospects for higher salaries should not be subsidized by other students.
For public universities, tuition differentials have also been driven, in part, by declining state financial support. At the three-campus University of Illinois, state support covered half of instructional costs three decades ago, but now accounts for just 15%.
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Consequently, tuition has risen to help bridge the gap, shifting costs to students and their families. Tuition differentials are an offshoot of that shift, ensuring that costs are in line with the education students receive.
As college sticker price and student debt increase, so do concerns about accessibility, and the university is working to make sure no deserving student is denied the life-changing opportunity of a University of Illinois education simply due to cost. Need-based financial assistance has increased nearly fourfold during the past decade to more than $60 million annually.
Economic forces have changed the funding model for higher education, but the University of Illinois is committed to striking a balance that ensures fairness, access and best-in-class graduates who will lead new generations of progress.
Christophe Pierre is vice president for academic affairs at the University of Illinois, which enrolls more than 77,000 students on three campuses.
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