Funding plan short of IBHE expectations

By Kelli E. Christiansen

Gov. Jim Thompson’s education spending plan falls $45 million short of what the Illinois Board of Higher Education needs to keep pace with inflation.

Thompson recommended a $128 million boost in general revenue fund spending or state taxes and lottery receipts for elementary through college education. The plan is less than 3 percent of general revenue fund spending.

The proposal is $188 million dollars less than the no-frills budget proposed by the IBHE.

“This is typical of the state government,” said NIU Student Regent Bob Tisch. “It’s not even close to what’s needed. It’s a pathetic situation.” Tisch is a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives seat being vacated by John Countryman.

The state supports 39.9 percent of the total cost for public school operation. If the IBHE-proposed additional funds are passed, they would increase state funding by 1 percent.

Higher education received the least money from general revenue funds in Fiscal Year 1989 than all other levels of education and agencies such as public aid and corrections.

Education funding in Illinois has grown an average of 6.6 percent each year since 1985. This year, NIU spring semester tuition is $857 for 12 or more undergraduate hours.

During the 1988-89 academic year, students paid $125 surcharge per semester which was seen by many as a substitute for directly raising tuition.

Since 1977, state funding appropriated to public universities has increased about 83.7 percent. Tuition has grown by about 221 percent.

“The state appropriations’ side is not keeping up,” said Anne Kaplan, NIU executive assistant to the president.

Kaplan said education officials know how much money is needed to run a university and know there are limited financial sources. Salaries make up the largest portion of university spending.

Fiscal Year 1988 was the first year since 1986 that faculty received salary increases. Salary increases were also awarded for FY89 and FY90.

Kaplan said there are long-term effects mixed with higher education budgets, such as the decreasing number of high school students entering colleges.

“As the number of students goes down, it leaves fewer students over whom we can spread costs,” she said. “There’s not a lot of fat—at least not in our (NIU) budget.”

Kaplan said “it may be a little early to react” because the final budget will not be released until March 7.

“We are currently operating under IBHE recommendations which are based on no tuition increase,” said NIU Provost Kendall Baker.

Although not wanting to raise tuition, IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said all revenue sources will have to be considered. The IBHE has not made a formal response to a tuition freeze request.

“We’re not backing off one inch,” said Brian Hopkins, Sangamon State University student Regent. Hopkins proposed a tuition freeze for Regency universities in January.

NIU, Illinois State University at Normal and Sangamon State University at Springfield are Regency universities governed by the Board of Regents.