President Baker emails university community on state budget action

NIU President Doug Baker
NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker sent this message today to members of the university community.

In the closing hours of the fiscal year, we received some very positive news to report.

The governor signed into law a bill that provides higher education with badly needed financial support. For NIU it includes: $48.3 million in operating funds and $15.5 million to continue construction on the Stevens Building. The bill also includes money for MAP grants.

This development comes as welcome news to our new and existing students who were concerned about what the budget impasse could mean for them. We can now say with great confidence that this will allow us to continue our mission of preparing students for career success throughout the next academic year.

The details of the agreement are still emerging, but it appears that the operating fund money can be used to pay off expenses incurred during FY2016, and that is how we will use those dollars. Similarly, it is our understanding that the Illinois Student Assistance Commission is likely to designate the MAP appropriation be used to reimburse the university for the costs incurred covering grants last spring. If that is the case, NIU will once again credit student accounts for MAP grant money this fall, contingent on recouping that money from the state at a later date.

By taking those steps, we would enter FY2017 facing essentially the same circumstances as FY2016. That is to say that we will rely on income generated by tuition, fees and other sources. Also, if necessary, we will use what cash reserves we have available to us to bridge any funding gaps.

However, there appears to be a genuine commitment (albeit, no guarantee) on the part of the state’s leaders to provide another round of appropriations – both for operating funds and for MAP – in January.

Symbol of the State of IllinoisAs grateful as we are for today’s agreement, the financial situation for NIU and other universities across the state remains extremely delicate. This amounts to another short-term fix. As such, we cannot at this time relax any of the steps we have taken to tightly control spending, hiring and salaries over these last few years.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of faculty and staff all across campus, we have proven up to the task of operating under such circumstances. However, the longer we must do so the more difficult it becomes.

We are very pleased that the legislature and the governor have come together in a spirit of bipartisan compromise to create this budget, and we look forward to working with them on addressing our financial needs for FY2017, and to craft a long-term solution that creates a sound, reliable financial foundation for higher education across Illinois.

In the meantime, I hope you can take heart from the announcement today, and can take with you into the Fourth of July weekend a bit more confidence about our future.

Forward Together,

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