The Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Southern Illinois Chapter of Democractic Socialists of America proposed today at a press conferece in Morris Library to make Southern Illinois University Carbondale the first public university in the state tution-free.
According to a DSA/YDSA press release, the university has out priced its market and the rising cost in tution is a leading cause for SIUC's declining enrollment.
DSA member and graduate student at SIUC Sam Smucker said it should be incumbent on politicans to fund higher education.
"We note that in the last [state] budget there was $500 million set aside for the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute program, and there was no justification needed for that project," Smucker said. "So, in some ways it's a little crazy to say 'you have to justify where the money is going to come from.'''
In their proposal, DSA and YDSA suggest paying for the cost of tution-free education through the Lasalle Street Tax, a tax on stock transcations at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, a progressive income tax, and transfer funds that are budgeted for research to covering university costs.
YDSA Treasurer Layne Ellingsworth said the groups are open to suggestions that the university's administration might have about the tution-free proposal.
"For example, making it [tution-free admission] only for students who are from backgrounds that can only make $60,000 a year," Ellingsworth said. "Programs like that are a good step forward."
The enrollment drop at SIUC is felt around the region. A local resident and alumna of the university Tabitha Tripp said before enrollment began declining at the university, SIUC was home to diverse students, creative and intelligent ideas, and a rich culture that made southern Illinois a joy to live in.
"The cost of tution has made going to a university a pipe dream for most of the working class families. We are looking to send my kids away to a less expensive college," Tripp said. "Higher education should be a right, not a luxury for the rich."
Cinema and Photography Professor Jyostna Kapur said it was the unprententious culture of SIUC that kept her in southern Illinois. She's worked at the university for twenty years and decided to raise her family in the area.
"This was a state school, it was built by middle-class people paying their taxes and now we are cheating our children out of the rewards of that work," Kapur said
Both members of the YDSA and DSA said the proposal for making the university tution-free is a positive vision of a future for SIUC to achieve growth in enrollment and success.