NORMAL -- ISU leaders said Friday that continued cuts to state funding eventually could make a public college education too pricey for the average middle-class family.

"At some point it has to stop," said Al Bowman, ISU president.

In 2002, the state provided about $93 million to ISU. But as proposed, 2010-2011 funds leave the Normal campus with $20 million less, he said.

That means looking elsewhere for the money -- such as tuition revenue, he said.

ISU's board of trustees on Friday approved rate increases that will find most ISU freshmen paying nearly $20,000 to attend ISU for 2010-2011 -- factoring in tuition, fees, and room and board.

That's about 6 percent more than last year's new ISU stu-dents pay. The state's truth-in-tuition law guarantees rates for four years.

"This isn't a welcome day. But it's a day that somehow the government has forced upon us by abdicating education as a priority," said Michael McCuskey, board chairman.

The rising burden on students isn't unique to Illinois; it's a national problem, said ISU President Al Bowman.

"We are not out of line with other universities where we fit into the mix with quality," said trustee JD Bergman. "But at some point we've got to stop ... continual increases. "We are pricing the middle class out of higher education," he said.

McCuskey, a federal judge, lamented that more public dollars being spent on incarceration, while less goes to education.

"The state of Illinois' priori-ties and our nation's priorities are different for our children. I don't know where we lost it," said McCuskey.

Following World War II, education was perceived as a public responsibility. "In the 1960s, for every $1 in tuition (collected), the state was funding $13," Now, higher education is "going to be built on the backs of middle class to keep it going," said McCuskey.

So when could this middle-class breaking point arrive?

"We'll know when fewer people start going to four-year schools," said Bowman. But that's still a ways off, he said.

For now, ISU's access efforts are focused on the lowest incomes. ISU provided more than $5 million in need-based scholarships this year to students from families earning less than $40,000, he said.

Middle-class families must turn elsewhere, such as merit-based scholarships and work-study programs, said Bowman.

It's generally now accepted that college planning must include a savings plan, and often students working their way through school, he said.

In the meantime, ISU works to manage well what money it does have, said Bowman. This year maintenance projects were deferred, hiring freezes continue, and pay raises van-ished, he said.

Alternative revenue streams are sought, as well: By the end of March, ISU had earned more than $19.2 million in grant funding, and the university is on track to surpass its $10 million goal for private giving, this year, he said.

At a glance

Below are annual tuition, fees, room, and board For Illinois public universities for fall 2009 and fall 2010 (projected).

School - 2009 - 2010 - Change

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (with differentials) - $22,995 - $24,630 - $1,635

University of Illinois, Chicago (with differentials) - $22,015 - $23,598 - $1,583

University of Illinois, Urbana - Champaign - $21,344 - $22,827 - $1,483

University of Illinois, Chicago - $21,154 - $22,657 - $1,503

Illinois State University - $18,713 - $19,853 - $1,140

Northern Illinois University - $18,168 - NA - NA

Southern Illinois University – Carbondale - $18,113 - $18,675 - $562

Western Illinois University - $17,259 - $18,351 - $1,092

Eastern Illinois University - $17,197 - $18,209 - $1,012

Chicago State University - $15,858 - $17,127 - $1,269

Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville - $15,766 - $16,226 - $460

University of Illinois, Springfield - $15,316 - $16,455 - $1,139

Northeastern Illinois University (no room/board) - $9,908 - $10,512 - $604

Governors State University (no room/board) - $8,352 - $8,860 - $508

Source: Illinois State University Board of Trustees

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