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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

University Council discussed new projects to offset deficit

Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Elish-Piper (left) and Vice President for Administration and Finance and CFO George Middlemist stand behind a podium presenting NIU’s deficit mitigation plan. Wednesday’s University Council meeting focused on different strategies NIU will use to combat its $33.7 million deficit. (Hannah Soukup | Northern Star)

DeKALB – New strategies to combat budget offsets and increase revenue and enrollment following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed higher education budget for fiscal year 2025 were discussed at University Council Wednesday. 

In November 2023, the Board of Trustees approved a state budget request of $116.4 million for fiscal year 2025, which would have been a 7.8% increase from the previous year. President Lisa Freeman acknowledged the unlikeliness of the Illinois Board of Higher Education approving this amount.

“The executive branch started signaling very early this year that it would be a lean budget year given the demands on the state and the disappearance of COVID relief funding,” Freeman said.  

The Illinois Board of Education recommended an appropriated amount of $106.4 million to NIU last month, according to Freeman. 

Given the recommended 2025 fiscal year state budget and the projected $33.7 million deficit for the 2024 fiscal year, NIU will cut costs, increase tuition and other fees, reallocate resources and increase student enrollment and retention. 


Vice President for Administration and Finance and CFO George Middlemist and Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Laurie Elish-Piper discussed the importance of allocating scholarships in a way that benefits enrollment rates and revenue. 

The pair explained over $1 million in scholarship money was going to waste and has to be used in a way that directly benefits students. 

Middlemist recommended the $3,000 merit scholarship NIU provides to incoming freshmen to increase to $4,000 and spread across all four years of undergraduate study at a rate of $1,000 a year. 

“What modeling has shown us is that we’ll actually keep the same number of students,” Middlemist said. “We won’t lose students by reducing the first year amount of $3,000 to $1,000 which we’ll hand to students at a much better rate.” 

Middlemist estimated this change will generate about $750,000.


As a way to increase revenue and bring new educational opportunities, NIU is partnering with McHenry County College. 

According to Elish-Piper, there will be five degree areas available at MCC for location-bound working adults or other students who cannot attend NIU directly. 

According to NIU’s website on its partnership with MCC, the degree programs provided are business administration, computer science, early childhood education, psychology and public health. 

“Really looking at those strategic opportunities will increase our enrollment, and through that partnership also allow us to serve that area and help in some high-need areas where they really need people to earn these degrees,” Elish-Piper said. 

NIU’s partnership with MCC will begin fall 2024. 


The preexisting partnership between NIU and Harper College will continue as NIU is adding at least one more degree program. The program is set to replace a program that was not being utilized excessively. 

“One of the degrees was not in as high of demand, so we taught out the students interested in that degree, and we’re going to be adding at least one more high-demand degree,” Elish-Piper said. “We’re really looking at those opportunities to serve students in different ways.”

More information on the Harper and NIU partnership can be found on NIU’s website.


Since November 2023, NIU has partnered with ReUp to bring back students who attended NIU and did not finish their degree program. 

According to Elish-Piper, since January 2024, 27 students have returned to NIU and hundreds of others are interested in the program. She said this program is a good growth opportunity and way to get more students to earn degrees through NIU. 

“We have a number of strategies like that thinking about how to make our programs more available and accessible to different populations,” Elish-Piper said. 

The next University Council meeting will take place at 3 p.m. April 3 in Altgeld Hall, Room 315. 

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