Regents discuss funding problems

By Amy Goldhagen

Illinois’ higher education system must recover from more than a decade of inadequete funding, making it difficult for the Board of Regents to endorse a proposed tuition freeze.

“All public universities, especially the regency system, were confronted with a harsh set of fiscal realities during the past decade and we cannot recover overnight,” Regency Chancellor Roderick Groves said.

The board governs NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University at Springfield.

State Comptroller Roland Burris said University Income Funds, made up of tuition and student fees, now compose more than 16 percent of all higher education spending, compared to only 9 percent 10 years ago.

“This reflects the huge increases in tuition costs borne by students and their families,” Burris said.

Nick Noe, NIU director of Institutional Research, said UIF accounts for about 18 percent of NIU’s budget, slightly higher than the state average.

NIU President John La Tourette said NIU received $1,135,600 less in UIF funds this year, which forced the university to stretch its budget to avoid raising 1990 tuition.

Anne Kaplan, NIU executive assistant to the president, said NIU must meet changing needs, preventing commitment to any formal tuition policy.

Kaplan said NIU primarily serves the Chicago area. “The burden of meeting this area’s changing needs is confronting NIU in a unique way,” she said.

Severe faculty shortages will also need to be addressed, if NIU is going to maintain and improve the quality of faculty, Kaplan said.

NIU might have to accept less prepared students in order to maintain enrollment, Kaplan said, adding more money will be necessary to prepare these students.

NIU is facing building maintenance costs which are higher than ever before. “NIU’s big building boom ended in the early ‘70s. Most of these buildings now desperately need repair,” Kaplan said.