Tuition increases essential to advancement

Stories in papers across the state have raised questions over tuition increases at Alabama&8217;s higher education institutions. Why, they ask, must universities raise tuition when legislative funding is already generous? Shouldn&8217;t they be keeping the cost of tutition down?

From the perspective of the University of Montevallo, two forces drove our decision: our need to compete for qualified faculty

and our need to catch up in renovation and deferred maintenance in our National Historic District.

The single most important factor driving tuition increases is the shortage of qualified faculty who can address student needs. Ask any university president who has recently tried to hire a faculty member skilled in emerging fields such as information science, Asian languages or international finance, and you will hear the same story:

the international knowledge economy is driving faculty salaries up much faster than the Consumer Price Index.

Traditional fields are affected, too, as professors must be technologically savvy if they are to prepare students for today&8217;s world. We must prepare our students with a foundation of knowledge and skills unknown fewer than 50 years ago.

The second most important factor driving tuition increases at UM is our need to address renovation and maintenance needs in our buildings. Our estimate of five-year construction, renovation and deferred maintenance needs last fall totaled $37 million. To address those needs, we will receive about $2.2 million from the recent bond issue.

Given the gap, we can either keep tuition down and save money in the short run, or we can use part of our operating revenues, including tuition increases, as a supplement. We have chosen the second as being the wiser.

Dr. Philip C. Williams is president of the University of