LaTourette talks on future of ed.

By Katrina Kelly

NIU President John LaTourette spoke about future funding for higher education at a University Council meeting Wednesday.

“Are we going to invest in our young people and provide further higher education?” he asked.

The Board of Regents’ Resolution report states the general revenue funds of the universities have been reduced by $9.1 million in the 1988 fiscal year. The resolution calls for the Board of Regents to support the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s budget which includes a 10 percent salary increase. The Regents will make a decision as early as mid-April.

“I hope that the legislature will see the importance of these issues. This is a crucial year for the state. Education is the key component in economic development,” LaTourette said.

“If we don’t reverse the motion (of the higher education budget), the state of higher education will be threatened. We have been denying access to a higher number of students,” he said.

The state has been doing more with less money, LaTourette said. The state’s financial support for higher education has decreased by 20 percent in the last year. “We have been able to make some quality changes and do additional things in spite of the budget erosion,” he said.

“Hopefully, we will see some additional relief from additional funds,” he said.

A critical issue has been a lack of salary increases for NIU faculty. Professors from several departments have expressed their intentions to leave NIU in search of better pay elsewhere.

LaTourette spoke of the lack of faculty pay increases as creating a “hardship and a burden” for the teachers. “We are concerned with not being able to recruit faculty but also to persuade them to stay,” he said.

A 10 percent pay increase has been recommended but passage is uncertain. “That amount may seem large if you are not aware that there was no salary increase this year. This is greatly needed in order to restore competition and to get quality faculty and staff,” he said.

“It is a matter of the state investing in public and higher education. All surrounding states have had increases; they are all making greater commitments,” he said.

LaTourette said he has directed the chancellor and president of the Board of Regents to review budgets to see what sacrifices are needed. “We are committed to doing as much as we can to address this issue for July ‘88 (the next fiscal year),” he said.

Illinois’ level of state funding ranks at the bottom of the United States, tied with West Virginia. “Illinois has the capacity to make a difference and maintain a competitive position in the region and the state,” LaTourette said.

“We have been living off accumulated capital, and we are getting to the end of our rope,” he said.

LaTourette said the $150 per student tuition increase did not make up for the $3.5 million budget cut in higher education.

NIU Provost Kendall Baker said the previous level of 3,300 freshmen to be admitted in the fall of 1988 may have to be reduced “to provide programs in accordance with resources.”