Cuts concern provost

By Paul Kirk

NIU Provost Kendall Baker has joined the ranks of those within the university who are expressing concern over higher education funding.

“I would emphasize very strongly that we (NIU) have tried very hard in all of the fiscal cuts that have been implemented to preserve the integrity of the class programs in the academic division,” Baker said.

Baker said he agrees with many of NIU’s faculty who have claimed the university academic programs are taking drastic budget cuts.

“You cannot continue to reduce academic funding without ultimately impacting the quality of education. We are at the point, in terms of the reductions, where we are affecting the overall nature of what we’re able to do in the academic division of the university,” he said.

Baker said if students look at the most recent cuts, they will see the largest portion of money being retrieved is coming from the Provost Office and the Associate Provost Office. The Provost Office has cut its budget by about $200,000, while the associate office is minus $150,000.

“Cuts made in the Provost Office are cutting back on support services offered to academics. We’re cutting support services so we can try to preserve the course offerings in the academic division,” he said.

Baker said some components of the academic division are experiencing the impact of budget cuts more severely than others simply because they have placed emphasis on maintaining the integrity of course offerings.

The academic division is the largest division of the university. While the percentage of cuts was relatively the same in other divisions, the amount of money contributed was more than the other divisions of the university, he said.

Baker said present indications from Springfield are that Gov. Jim Edgar will not make the decision on whether the state is going to have a recision until January.

“We are trying to develop an internal reserve to allow the university to do two things: support the salary offset and deal with a state recision of funds,” Baker said.

NIU should have a reserve that will be large enough to meet the recision. The question remaining is will the university have to use all of the reserve to meet the recision or will it be able to allow some of the money to be used to support the salary offset.

“I don’t know now whether the governor will say we need a one percent recision or a five percent recision,” Baker said.

NIU has established a top priority to maintain the academic program that it is our responsibility to offer, he said.

“The priority will continue to be to preserve the academic program of the university if more cuts surface,” Baker said.

“I don’t know if we will be completely successful in maintaining our effort, but what I do know that we’ll try,” he said.