University expenditures focus on research

By Brian Slupski

The university’s primary mission is to educate its students, but figures comparing Fiscal Year 1980 to FY 1990 show a shift in university expenditures, away from instructional costs.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education report shows over the past 10 years spending by the state’s 12 public universities for instructional purposes, when adjusted for inflation, has decreased by around 10.6 percent. While over the same period expenditures for research have risen 44.1 percent.

Chairman of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the IBHE David Ripley said one reason research costs have increased is because it is a way for the universities to bring in money.

If a university doesn’t receive as much as it needs from the state legislature, the university “may turn to research to bring in the money,” Ripley said.

In recent years, NIU has turned more in the direction of research, but the legislature and IBHE have refused to acknowledge this change.

“The legislature refuses to admit NIU is anything more than an overgrown teachers college,” he said.

He said this disagreement in how NIU views itself and how others view NIU has caused problems in getting support.

“The IBHE considers NIU a rebel or a maverick because we organize and promote programs, or expand in ways to help our students—like getting into law school,” Ripley said.

Executive Director of the University Council J. Carroll Moody said NIU, “set out very deliberately to increase the amount of research done here.”

He said one reason for this initiative was during Gov. Jim Thompson’s administration there was an emphasis on universities to conduct more research in order to bolster the economy of the state. However, with Gov. Jim Edgar the shift seems to be away from research.

“I have heard officials make statements which sound as if they feel NIU has moved too far in the direction of research,” Moody said.

He said while the IBHE hasn’t used any “heavy-handed” methods to get NIU to conform to its direction, it might in the future.

Another reason for the increased research is that it does bring in money in a number of ways through grants, he said.

Moody said research benefits the university on the instructional level.

“Faculty members who are engaged in research often bring something more to the classroom. They’re not only reading about someone else’s work, but pushing the bounds of their profession by conducting their own research,” he said.

Moody said instructional costs also have risen, but the increases have not kept up with inflation.