University administration should be transparent about expenses

You may have missed it, but once again the Alabama System board of trustees voted to raise tuition and fees at the system’s universities. After the latest in these regular tuition increases, the two-semester cost to attend The University of Alabama is $9,826 for an Alabama resident and $24,950 for an out-of-state student.

System administrators said the increase was unavoidable and that the regular inadequacy in state funding has resulted in tough decisions about the costs imposed ?on students.

Which is certainly partially true. The state legislature regularly denies the full budget requested by the UA system, even if the appropriations for 2014 did increase according to AL.com. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Education Trust Fund for our struggling state can hardly keep up with growth occurring on campus in Tuscaloosa. And there’s really nothing wrong about small tuition increases for an ?expanding university.

What’s wrong is the misallocation of the money that the UA system does have. What’s wrong is where the Board of Trustees places their priorities. What’s wrong is the sluggish flow of information about where public money and tuition is going.

The Crimson White reported that the Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations said that the tuition increase resulted from costs that the administration has no control over.

I’m guessing he’s not referring to the $1.8 million fountain that debuted outside Shelby Hall last year. Or the new $9 million football weight room.

He’s probably not talking about the millions of dollars paid out in bonuses to administrators past and present, according to AL.com. He’s almost certainly not talking about Nick Saban’s new ?$6.9 million-a-year salary.

And don’t get me wrong, I am fully in favor of paying Saban whatever it takes to keep him here and keep him happy. I understand that the football program brings in more revenue for the school than money expended on it. Just don’t tell me that choosing to pay a football coach more than any other public official in the country is an unavoidable cost.

The biggest issue is that the Chancellor Witt and the Board of Trustees want students to just send in their checks and stop asking questions about where the money is ?being spent.

They don’t think they have a duty to tell us about the millions of dollars spent in trademark lawsuits in recent years. They’re sick of reporters still asking questions about the hiring of President Bonner’s brother for a system position with a $350,000 a year price tag. They don’t feel the need to provide any information about the search, or lack thereof, for a new president when Guy ?Bailey resigned.

It’s the lack of state funding, they tell us as they add a couple hundred more dollars to our bill. It’s that dagblame Affordable Care Act making our healthcare benefits costs increase. It’s the new classrooms we’re building and the excellent faculty ?we’re hiring.

Maybe I’m just paranoid and bitter from my time dealing with the administration as the CW’s news editor last year. But excuse me if I’m not very trusting of a system administration less transparent than the dollar bills they want me to send to them.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education.

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