LaTourette cites lack of state support

By Frank Partipilo

State funding for higher education in Illinois is the lowest in the country due to a lack of state support, NIU President John LaTourette said at a speech he gave Tuesday night, sponsored by the Economics Club.

LaTourette said NIU is budgeted with $170 million part of which is used for auxiliary enterprises such as the Recreation Center, the Holmes Student Center and parkings lots.

The rest of the budget is directed to academic programs. LaTourette said this portion can be divided into two categories.

One category is funded through tax dollars and various other sources. The other is revenue generated through state support, and this is the area that Illinois is most lacking in.

“State support is lower in Illinois than the rest of (the) country,” LaTourette said. “Illinois used to be tied with West Virginia, in terms of state tax funds that were used for the operation of higher education. But Illinois has dropped from 71 percent to 66 percent in terms of general revenue given to universities.”

LaTourette said universities have many problems because of a lack of state funds. For one, NIU has had to control enrollment in the 1980s to try and keep the undergraduate level of students at or below 18,000.

Another result of low funding is the decreased percentage of people who have complete class schedules. “In the 1970s, about 82 percent of the students completed their schedules early, as compared to 63 percent this fall, finishing their schedules before the enrollment deadline,” LaTourette said.

There also has been a loss of faculty due to a lack of funds. “Last year 100 faculty members left NIU, compared to the average rate of 45 to 50,” LaTourette said. “Of those who didn’t retire, the rest left because of salaries that were 25 percent larger than those they were being paid at NIU.”

The problem of lack of state support for universities can be felt across the country, as well as Illinois LaTourette said.

The third largest problem that is plaguing NIU because of low funding is that of acquisition of new materials and maintenance costs.

“With changing times, new updated equipment such as computers, are needed in the library,” LaTourette said. “Many buildings and roads for the university were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Funding is needed to repair leaky roofs and potholes because the surroundings are old and starting to decay.”

In coping, NIU has had no choice but to take money away from the maintenance budget, in order to direct it toward the academic budget LaTourette said. “Maintenance has gone downhill, because there has been no other alternative to keep money in the academic budget.”

Students also have felt the lack of state support with tuition increases. LaTourette said tuition has increased 50 percent in the last two years, with a $300 increase in Fall 1987 and a $250 increase in Winter 1988.

LaTourette said solutions can be created in either the form of tax increases, which groups such as property owners oppose, or a 50 percent revenue growth for higher education.

“Emphasis has been on helping Chicago public schools in the last few years, but people must realize that more of an emphasis must be placed on higher education,” LaTourette said.”

LaTourette earned his doctorate degree in 1962 from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He spent 15 years at the State University of New York as the department chairman of economics and the graduate dean. LaTourette came to NIU in 1979 as provost where he taught economics.