Cuts would cost staff, students: Baker to Illinois Senate


NIU President Doug Baker discusses Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget cut proposal to NIU on Feb. 25 at University Council in the Holmes Student Center, Sky Room. Baker said the proposed budget cut of $29.3 million was “not OK,” but he looks forward to the legislative discussion on the budget this summer.

By Jackie Nevarez

NIU President Doug Baker said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s 31 percent proposed cut to NIU’s state funding could result in a reduction of 375 faculty and staff members.

Baker, along with NIU and student leaders, testified in front of the Illinois Senate Appropriations II Committee on Thursday in response to Rauner’s proposed state allocation of $64 million to NIU for Fiscal Year 2016. The proposed allocation would be a cut of about $29.3 million from FY 2015, when NIU was allocated about $93 million.

The proposed budget cuts would be equal to cutting the budgets for the colleges of business, engineering and education, Baker said.

Last year’s $20 million budget cut was balanced with a freeze in hiring, a 100-person workforce reduction and a new budget system, Baker said. The proposed budget cuts would negatively impact recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, Baker said.

“And we’re already seeing some schools come and cherry-pick our best faculty and staff out of the university because of the uncertainty of the budget situation,” Baker said.

In addition to the reduction of faculty and staff, Baker said the cuts could affect more than 4,000 students who rely on more than $18 million in financial aid from NIU.

If the cuts were implemented, Baker said NIU would have to increase tuition for freshmen by 75 percent, a move he said is not feasible. Baker has previously said he does not think NIU can raise its tuition without negatively impacting enrollment, which has fallen by more than 3,200 students since fall 2010.

In the past year, an estimated $578 reduction to tuition for each student as well as a tuition plateau for students taking more than 12 credit hours of courses have been established to maintain affordability for a diverse student body, Baker said.

“Our student body is very diverse and often first generation. … Almost 40 percent of our students are students of color; many are first generation,” Baker said.

Raquel Chavez, Student Association vice president, said she would not be at NIU if it weren’t for the financial aid she has received and for the existence of her program.

“I have a younger brother who is a freshman at Northern, as well, and I really would hate to see our enrollment decline,” Chavez said. “I would hate to see my brother have to leave the university to go elsewhere because … whatever is happening at Northern isn’t sufficient for him to stay there.”

NIU will appear in front of the Illinois House Higher Education Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The Legislature is expected to vote on a budget in the summer. The state’s final budget and the funding allocated to NIU “may look quite different” from Rauner’s proposal, said CFO Alan Phillips, according to a Feb. 19 Northern Star article.

NIU has faced cuts to its state funding since Fiscal Year 2010, when it was allocated $107 million.