NIU plans for 700 drop in enrollment

Interim+CFO+Nancy+Suttenfield+speaks+about+NIU%27s+budget+proposal+during+a+Board+of+Trustees+Finance%2C+Facilities+and+Operations+Committee+meeting+on+Sept.+1%2C+2014%2C+in+Altgeld+Hall.

Interim CFO Nancy Suttenfield speaks about NIU's budget proposal during a Board of Trustees Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting on Sept. 1, 2014, in Altgeld Hall.

Kelly Bauer

NIU has built an expected enrollment decline of 700 students representing more than $8 million in potential revenue into its proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

The decline would mark the fifth fall in a row NIU has had fewer students than it had the year before.

As early as March, NIU projected a 500-800 decline in fall 2014 enrollment from its fall 2013 numbers, when enrollment continued a four-year downward trend and fell by 731 students to hit an enrollment of 21,138 students. The continued drop comes with a decline in revenue for the university, as tuition, fees and room and board make up about 55 percent of NIU’s total revenue — or $246.9 million of $446 million for the Fiscal Year 2014 budget — though the proposed budget is “in balance,” according to the agenda for a Thursday Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting.

The budget was unanimously voted through to go before the Board of Trustees, which must review the budget and which will next meet Sept. 18.

The budget plans for $426.5 million in operating revenue to be generated and $425.8 million in operating expenses to be incurred by NIU, according to the agenda. An enrollment decline of 700 students represents a loss of about $8,394,680 in revenue, according to a spring presentation from interim CFO Nancy Suttenfield.

The projected enrollment decline is not certain, and NIU has “some optimism that final enrollments … could be greater than we have assumed, but we have not budgeted the potential revenue” from those students, according to the agenda. Actual fall 2014 enrollment numbers are set to be released on Monday.

The 700-student projected drop predicts a loss of 300 freshmen and transfers and 400 continuing students from last fall’s numbers, according to the agenda.

NIU President Doug Baker has emphasized raising enrollment, particularly through improving retention, since starting at the university in July 2013. NIU has implemented changes — including deconstructing Douglas Hall to extend Lucinda Avenue, transforming the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons and making the campus and city more “walkable” — based on the Master Plan Thesis, a series of ideas on how to revitalize the campus and attract students.