Budget concerns at top of agenda for Regents

By Amy Goldhagen

NORMAL- Budget concerns topped the agenda for the Board of Regents as rising costs and limited state funding challenge NIU adminstrators to keep college affordable.

Regents and school administrators were made aware of problems facing their universities Wednesday as they await final proposals for the 1991 tuition, room and board rates and health insurance rates to be presented in April.

“We have closed the salary gap by 40 percent since last year, but we still have a long way to go,” NIU President La Tourette said.

La Tourette said education alone has requested an increase of almost $500 million, however, Illinois Gov. James Thompson has estimated only up to $600 million revenue will be available for state agencies.

Several resolutions have been passed, stating at least 50 percent of all new money available, should go toward educaton, La Tourette said.

“Illinois has fallen so far behind that even 50 percent of the state budget might not match the amount we need to restore our universities to the level of funding they were at fifteen years ago,” he said.

NIU also faces significant increases for student health insurance with Blue Cross and Blue Shield proposing a 44 percent rate increase, forcing NIU officials to rebid health insurance.

Room and board is expected to increase at least 5 percent to $2,817, according to the Illinois Board of Regents Finance Facilities report.

La Tourette said room and board will stay the same, if not below the rate of inflation and described the increase as “simply a cost of living adjustment.”

“The Governor’s report does not look good, but then again it never does,” said BOR Chancellor Roderick Groves said. Since the state’s education system is “showing improvement” he is trying to be “cautiously optimistic,” Groves said.

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