President's Budget Statement

March 25, 2010

Today I addressed the Illinois Senate Appropriations Committee, attempting to make the case that our state appropriation for next year should remain the same as last year, approximately $107 million.

Ordinarily this would be a modest request. However, these times are anything but ordinary. The state is embroiled in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and is having difficulty paying bills today, let alone budgeting for tomorrow.

Due to those circumstances, our request is far removed from the amount in Gov. Quinn’s proposed FY2011 budget. That plan would cut our appropriation by 6.2 percent, which translates to a loss of about $6.7 million.

As part of my testimony today, I was asked to respond to what such a cut would mean to our campus. The picture I shared was sobering, and I felt obliged to share it with you as well. Please note, however, that this is just one scenario that could emerge.

We estimate that the governor’s proposed budget for FY11 would require an immediate reduction in the NIU workforce that could impact 257 faculty and staff and 86 student employees. That reduction could take the form of temporary layoffs, reduced work weeks, permanent elimination of positions, or a combination of all those and other options yet to be identified.

The budget and staffing cuts could also lead to cutbacks in academic programs and support services; larger classes; longer time to graduation for students; delays in purchasing much- needed equipment; putting off badly needed maintenance and repairs. The list goes on and on.

That said, I assure you that protecting jobs and the quality of our academic programs for students is our top priority. We can make a strong case that NIU already runs a very lean operation, and that any such cuts could have a significant, negative impact on the quality of the education that NIU students receive. We will take every opportunity to make our case to state legislators and policy makers.

As you watch the budget process unfold in Springfield, know that a cut in our appropriation is but one of the challenges facing NIU. Other aspects of the state budget also have a dramatic effect on our finances:

  • Grant funding - Many departments on campus are heavily dependent on grant funding. For instance, we receive significant revenue each year through grants that flow from the Department of Children and Family Services to NIU for research and training - Cuts to that agency could have a spillover negative impact on programs here.
  • Unfunded mandates - Contributions for employee health care, tuition grants for veterans, requirements that we install sprinklers in our residence halls and other unfunded mandates cost us more than $8 million this fiscal year alone.
  • MAP funding - the governor has proposed a 1.5 percent increase for MAP grants, but the events of last year show how vulnerable this program is. Without it, thousands of our undergraduate students likely would be unable to continue pursuing a college degree.

In addition to all these concerns, the cloud created by the state’s current cash flow crisis continues to hover over us. The state still owes us more than $63 million in funds appropriated for the current fiscal year. No plan is in place to make up that shortfall, and how that will impact our future financial operations is unclear.

Clearly these are difficult times, and these issues should be of concern to us all. Currently there are far more questions than answers, and this situation will be changing quickly and often.

I pledge that we will do our best to keep you informed on the issues, and I urge you not to sit on the sidelines. Familiarize yourself with contact information for your state legislators, pay close attention to their positions on higher education funding, and do not hesitate to voice your opinion. That information can be found here. Ultimately, nobody can better make the case for NIU than those of us who help make it a great institution every day.

John G. Peters

P.S. Please remember that it is inappropriate to use university resources (stationery, postage, e-mail, telephones, etc.) to communicate personal opinions to state legislators and policy makers.