Tuition money freed for NIU use

By Jim Wozniak

SPRINGFIELD -NIU was granted permission to spend the revenue from the $150 tuition increase next semester as it comes in but received no additional general revenue funds when the state legislative session ended Friday.

In a deal struck between Gov. James Thompson and legislative leaders, about $29 million in supplementary GRF was added to a conference committee report, along with more than $125 million in non-GRF. The legislature gave about $22 million of the GRF total to elementary and secondary education but no money to higher education. The tuition reallocation was included in the non-GRF as an income fund.

These totals did not include the $6 million in tax increment funding, which Thompson had vetoed but both houses overrode by Wednesday.

The House of Representatives passed the report 106-3, and the Senate passed it 51-3. The agreement replaced Senate Bill 1520, which also called for the tuition reallocation and $10.5 million to higher education for faculty salary increases. That bill was not called in the House Friday.

“I’m pleased that we will have the appropriation for the tuition approved,” NIU President John LaTourette said when he heard the news. “That is important in terms of planning for the spring semester to avoid additional problems and shutdowns. I wish for more recognition of the needs for education and more funds.

“It’s sort of a mixed blessing,” he said. “We have enough funds to get us through the year but not enough for the long run. This is just a Band-Aid and a Band-Aid that will not last because it won’t stick.”

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said, “Basically I am pleased they appropriated the tuition money. Obviously we would have had a very difficult time sustaining the operations at that level.”

LaTourette, who indicated he was not surprised at the events, said the lack of appropriation for salary increases “redoubles” his effort to seek more funds in that area in the spring.

Groves said the lack of faculty salary increases should make for a strong case for such funds in the spring. He said if the $10.5 million had been given, the legislature might not have been so willing to listen next spring.

The lack of GRF for higher education also meant no money to supplement the Illinois State Scholarship Commission in paying for the statewide tuition increases.

LaTourette said with no additional ISSC funds being appropriated, NIU will not have all of the money from the tuition increase. Students receiving full grants will not have to pay the increase even though the state has not given them the extra money, he said.

Those on partial aid will pay only a proportion of the increase, he said. LaTourette said this agreement was made by the Board of Regents in September when it approved the tuition hike. He said NIU would have to make ends meet without that money.

LaTourette said an earlier bill, SB 1525, had about $4 million for ISSC funds. That total killed the bill, he said. When SB 1520 was created in October, those funds were not included, he said.

Senate President Phil Rock, D-Oak Park, said before his meeting with Thompson that he expected elementary and secondary education to receive between $12 million and $15 million in supplementary funds, not $22 million.

ock said the education allocation did not include anything for higher education because “it just didn’t fit in with the (29) million dollars. We were attempting to put in as much money for elementary and secondary education. You start adding it up, and there was no money.”

Thompson echoed Rock’s sentiments, saying no money was available.

Although the legislature voted for the committee report, some legislators spoke out against the lack of funding for higher education.

“Those in higher education are getting zero,” said Sen. Stanley Weaver, R-Champaign, who added the $10.5 million to SB 1520 as an amendment. “We didn’t even look at higher education. I don’t think there are too many advocates of higher education on the Senate floor and the House floor. I can’t support that.”

elen Satterthwaite, House Higher Education Committee chairman, D-Urbana, said the state has put a larger burden on students with the tuition hikes. She also said Illinois faculty salary raises began to grow closer to comparable groups, but the gap has increased again. Cuts in ISSC funds might have adverse effects on low-income students, some of whom might not be able to continue, she said.

Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, said part of higher education’s problem might have been self-induced. He said he saw no lobbyists for higher education Friday. The biggest voice for education during the three-day session were elementary and secondary education school unions.

ep. John Countryman, R-DeKalb, said he thought Welch’s statement was “a great observation.” Countryman said he knew LaTourette was here Thursday with Ken Beasley, assistant to the president, but apparently was caught in a matter at the Regents’ office. Although Regents lobbyist Phil Adams was at the Capitol all three days, Countryman said, “I didn’t see him, and I don’t go looking for lobbyists.

“It’s a disappointment, and I’ve made my feelings known,” he said of the outcome. “I think we need money for faculty salaries. I’ve told them students can’t get classes, tuition is too high. This is not good for the state.”

Welch, Countryman and Satterthwaite voted in favor of the supplementary funds, but Weaver only voted present. Sen. Richard Newhouse, D-Chicago, for Senate Higher Education Committee chairman, voted against the supplementary funds.

Welch and Rock said another reason why higher education was left empty-handed in terms of GRF is that colleges and universities can raise tuition whenever necessary if extra funds are needed. Public elementary and secondary schools do not have that option. Property taxes need to be raised for such funds to become available.

Welch said universities can reduce their enrollment and increase the number of students in classes without affecting students’ learning ability. He said the $10.5 million in SB 1520 was for faculty raises, which he said the legislature would not buy because of the 1,700 teachers in elementary and secondary education who have been laid off.

The $22 million for elementary and secondary education was broken down with $16 million for general state aid, about $3 million for the math and science academy, $2 million for transportation and $1 million for special education. The other major non-GRF items included about $90 million for highways and more than $4 million for state lottery promotion.

It’s sort of a mixed blessing. We have enough funds to get us through the year but not enough for the long run. This is just a Band-Aid and a Band-Aid that will not last because it won’t stick.”

John LaTourette, NIU president