It’s time for hard decisions

The Illinois public is saying no more taxes. Legislators are responding by saying the same thing. And now, we need to face facts. NIU will have to cut services and become more efficient.

Every year, NIU struggles to get some state moola for its interests but usually ends up a dollar short. Tuition increases don’t fly well with parents. State lawmakers are hesitant to hike taxes, especially in an election year.

As long as political pandering and legislative tap dancing continue to force NIU into never-ending battles for money, the crew at Lowden Hall might as well wave the white flag and face the music.

The victims, alas, are students. There’s simply no way out, but here are some ideas:

‘Cut athletics—severely. More and more tuition dollars are poured into athletics, an area of the university that never seems to be hurting for money.

NIU is not the Seattle Kingdome. This university was made to support education. The buildings here are for classes. Paying $2.4 million for coaching salaries is money that should be going toward teachers and professors.

‘Cut classes that few people take. Less classes means less staff.

‘Seriously reconsider the development of an engineering program. Why should we create and develop new departments when we cannot support the existing ones?

‘Reduce some administrative departments. Bureaucratic bloat makes for higher tuition. Students can no longer afford the luxury of staffing these services to the point of maximum convenience.

Here are suggestions: Affirmative Action Office, Career Planning and Placement Center, Chance Program, Development and University Relations, health offices, Reserved Officers Training Corps, Residence Hall Office, Student Affairs.

Certainly, there are others. The list does not imply these offices do not serve an important function. But cold, hard decisions need to be made.

‘NIU needs to narrow its mission. Support services are helpful, but taxpayers and students have shown resistance to paying for programs not directly related to educating students.

Certainly, fights will break out among the programs getting the ax, but that’s the way it is. It’s better to go through some pain now than to go bankrupt later.

In fact, a budget cut that hits a great number of functions might not be as difficult as it would appear. The recent budget cutting that went on in the county board is a case in point.

Pressed by taxpayer outrage over rising property taxes, the DeKalb County Board has come up with a “no-growth” budget—the amount of property taxes revenue is the same as last year.

Due to cost-of-living increases alone, this would have seemed to have been a difficult-to-impossible task. Surprisingly, many county board members remarked how easy budget negotiations went because the various county services knew the ax would fall everywhere.

NIU should learn from the county’s example and start sounding the budget alarm now. Like the aftermath of a snowstorm, it’s amazing how everyone will pitch in and help out in times of trouble.