NIU and U of I seek to ensure state funding ‘predictability’

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — The Board of Trustees endorsed a historic piece of proposed legislation with the University of Illinois Systems.

If passed, the Investment Performance and Accountability Commitment, or IPAC, compact would guarantee NIU receives $93 million in state funding each year for the next five years. The university would commit to “holding down student costs and enrolling Illinois undergraduates,” according to a March 8 NIU and U of I joint press release.

IPAC was introduced to the General Assembly November 2016 by the University of Illinois System. The bill has been endorsed by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) and Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), according to the press release.

“Northern Illinois University is pleased to say we are interested and excited about joining the University of Illinois by amending this piece of legislation and documenting the fact that we share that philosophy,” acting President Lisa Freeman said during a March 8 Board of Trustees meeting.

 “That the state should provide what universities in Illinois and NIU needs most: consistently, stability and predictability funding.”

The university would commit to ensuring 50 percent of first-year students are from underserved populations, or those who are first-generation, graduates from Chicago Public Schools or eligible for Pell Grants.

About 48 percent of NIU’s current first-year students are from underserved population, Freeman said.

The administration also pledges to maintain at least a 75 percent undergraduate retention rate and a 50 percent six-year graduation rate minimum for first-time, first-year students in undergraduate programs, according to the press release.

Matt Streb, Board of Trustees government liaison, said NIU and U of I will sign on to the bill, but both universities would have separate agreements with state officials.

Freeman said she wanted to offer the Board the opportunity to publicly endorse the proposed bill as a way to show state officials the university is accountable and serious about serving Illinois residents.

“I think it behooves us to show that we’re not afraid of making a commitment to our students and to the people of Illinois,” Freeman said.