NIU plans to cut $30M from budget


By Sara Karikomi

Due to a lack of state appropriated funds, NIU plans to cut $30 million from its budget, by the end of the semester, to keep the school out of deficit for the summer and fall semesters.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Fiscal Year 2016 proposed budget includes a reduction in funds to public entities, including NIU’s $93 million in allocations for FY 2015 being cut to about $64 million. A lack of agreement on the proposed budget has resulted in a seven-month impasse. Without a finalized budget, state appropriations cannot be given.

NIU has cut 15 percent or $15 million of its spring 2016 budget and plans to cut another 15 percent by the end of the semester. The updated working budget will be reviewed today at the Board of Trustees Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting, said Alan Phillips, vice president of Administration and Finance.

“We’re actually below budget,” Phillips said at a town hall meeting Tuesday. “So even if we get cut by 20 percent [from the proposed budget cuts] … we’ll still be okay.”

State-funded universities across Illinois have seen cuts. Chicago State University’s cash position becomes difficult as early as March at which the university’s future becomes uncertain.

“Most of the impact is because we’re in Illinois,” Phillips said. “There’s not much you can do about it unless we move to another state.”

Phillips said NIU has been handling the budget as if the school were about to incur the $30 million reduction in funding that Rauner proposed. As a result, NIU is spending below its budget for the semester.

NIU has also maintained reserves for the summer and fall semesters which will help ensure the school will remain out of debt, Phillips said.

“I understand [Phillips has] a rosy perspective on [Monetary Award Program] grants,” said Media Studies professor Laura Vazquez at the town hall meeting. “I don’t share your perspective, but maybe I’m wrong … what will we do if MAP grants are not reinstated for fall enrollment? I have a lot of students who rely on that kind of support.”

Last fall, NIU temporarily credited 5,700 students with MAP grants out of confidence the state would pay back the MAP grants. NIU temporarily credited eligible students with MAP grants for the spring semester as well.

Phillips said NIU will not compensate the money received by students eligible for MAP if the state does not fund the MAP grants but will help students find money through scholarships and grants.

“We’re not in a position to cover those costs,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he is confident the state government will provide the necessary funds because he thinks the state government prioritizes MAP funding.