Subcommittees discuss summer school funding

By Stephanie Bradley

Two small subcommittees, one from the Deans’ Council and the other from the Faculty Assembly, met Friday to work on a solution to the problem of summer school funding, which has plagued NIU for more than 10 years.

The meeting was the first to have a general discussion of the problem, Daniel Wit, dean of International and Special Programs, said. There will be another meeting as soon as questionnaires regarding funding are returned by NIU college deans, and committee members are able to investigate other universities’ methods of funding summer school.

“We have to develop some proposals. We hope to get this done before the end of the semester. There’s a possibility it may go on all year,” he said.

Wit said, “Unless there is a big increase in money from Springfield, if we have to continue to function on the current budget, we will be able to offer less and less coursework. We’re pulling more and more money out of the regular year.

“The whole idea of external funding is important. With the present underfunding, there’s more pressure on all of us to find external funding,” Wit said.

NIU Provost Kendall Baker said NIU might have to look in other places besides Springfield for external funds. He also said if other solutions to the funding problem are not feasible, NIU might have to continue to try funding in the present manner.

Ronald Provencher, committee member and NIU anthropology professor, said some departments would be willing to get by without having summer school in order to offer better courses in the fall and spring semesters.

Baker said summer school is never fully funded at the beginning of each fiscal year. Summer school is budgeted $650,000 every year but actually costs $2.2 million. This means the Division of Academic Affairs has about a $1.6 million deficit, he said. “There are departments that have been priced out of the summer school program.”

Baker said NIU uses the “lapse process” to come up with the needed funds. At the beginning of every fiscal year, faculty is funded beyond what the budget is able to give it. However, some faculty members do not use all the funds available to them, either because of resignations or the receipt of funds from other projects, he said. The unused funds are then released for summer school. NIU is able to overbudget—spend more than it has, Baker said.

Since summer school is on a fixed budget, the number of teachers and sections of classes goes down as salaries go up, Baker said.

Wit sent a questionnaire to every college concerning which method they would prefer in dealing with the problem.

The questionnaire also was designed to get departmental and college input “on how to deal with the budgetary inadequacies which impact negatively on the rest of the academic year,” Wit said. So far, the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Business and Engineering have returned the questionnaire, he said.

The questionnaire suggested two solutions to the funding problem. The first method would have NIU funded on a 12-month basis. This would have summer school funding included in the regular funding and would result in three terms for the academic year, according to the questionnaire. It also would give departments more flexibility in terms of what courses would be offered and might “generate extra non-general revenue funding for summer,” the questionnaire stated.

A “discreet summer budget” is the other alternative. This method would result in a balanced or perhaps a profit-generating summer session.