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President Peters testifies before House appropriation committee

April 22, 2013

statecapitolSPRINGFIELD–Northern Illinois University President John G. Peters and other NIU administrators traveled to Springfield to provide testimony to the House of Representatives Higher Education Appropriations Committee Thursday morning.

Peters presented NIU’s FY2014 budget request to the 23-person committee chaired by Kenneth Dunkin, noting the many accomplishments of NIU during the past year while testifying to the challenges faced by the university and higher education community.

“I am pleased to report that Northern Illinois University continues to fulfill its mission and build upon its reputation of affordable educational opportunity, academic excellence, innovative research, and community service,” Peters said to the committee at the outset of the hearing, noting it would be his last such appearance.

Various committee members–including state representative Bob Pritchard–thanked Peters for his years of service not only to Northern Illinois but also to the state.

“When the May commencement ceremony is over, I will have had the honor of awarding more than 72,000 degrees since I arrived at NIU,” continued Peters proudly. “I note this because, while attracting new students is vital to the mission of a public university, enrolling them is just the first step in a long journey.”

Peters identified the following strengths of NIU to the committee:

  • Academic performance
  • In-state student enrollment of approximately 95 percent
  • Student and faculty diversity
  • Student success
  • Research and public service

He noted Vision 2020’s “laser focus on outcomes, efficiency and productivity.” This campus-wide effort established benchmarks that will project and sustain the university efficiently and effectively toward our student-centered mission, he said.

The president discussed challenges the state’s higher education institutions face, including a systematic disinvestment in higher education, late payments from the state with respect to its appropriation and with Monetary Award Program grant reimbursement.

Peters also addressed the internal challenges the university has faced over the past year, saying: “Although this has been a challenge for NIU administrators and staff to manage over the last eight months, I can assure you that these events have not affected our ability to fulfill our mission.”

President Peters went on to relay to the committee the myriad accomplishments of NIU students, faculty, staff and alumni during the past year. These included:

  • The College of Education’s online graduate programs were ranked fourth best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report
  • U.S. News and World Report ranks NIU’s Master of Public Administration Program among the nation’s top 12 in city management and urban policy and public finance and budgeting
  • NIU is ranked third by high school counselors in the latest US News rankings of national public universities in Illinois
  • NIU is ranked in the top 10 universities in the areas of social mobility, research and service according to Washington Monthly’s College Guide Rankings
  • Opening a brand new, state of the art residence hall for 1008 students, completely built with private funds
  • A successful partnership between College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and manufacturing and engineering companies in Rockford, which earned federal funding
  • Articulation and reverse articulation agreements with community colleges, including more than 23 degree options with 10 partnering institutions
  • NCAA academic standards exceeded in each of 17 Division I sports over the past seven years
  • NIU football’s Orange Bowl berth

More transformative events will take place this year, with the opening of the Outdoor Student Recreation Complex, Gilbert Hall, Grant Towers North and the Chessick Indoor Practice Center during Fall 2013.  NIU will also host the IHSA football championships Thanksgiving weekend.

Peters acknowledged the difficult job state legislators have in managing Illinois’ fiscal mess, but asked that the committee “remember the return on the investment our public universities provide the state, our employers, the people of Illinois and our collective ability as a state to compete successfully in the global economy.”

The university put forth a flat budget request of $93.5 million from the State of the Illinois, roughly equal to the appropriation received by NIU in 1995.