University debt decreases by $4 million

Chairperson+Dennis+Barsema+responds+to+public+comments+at+a+Board+of+Trustees+meeting.

Northern Star file photo

Chairperson Dennis Barsema responds to public comments at a Board of Trustees meeting.

Aidan Bengford, News Reporter

DeKALB – The net position of the university decreased by $38 million, and the university’s debt decreased by almost $4 million for FY20, the Board of Trustees announced Thursday as they reviewed the audit of the university’s FY20 internal budget.

It is expected when the audit of FY21 concludes that the university will see another decrease in debt, said Sarah Chinniah, vice president and chief financial officer.

One aspect that affected the university earnings for FY21 was the change in tuition waivers. “We are seeing an increase in the number of waivers, but a decrease in the amount,” Chinniah said. 

At NIU there is an increase in mandatory waivers and other types of waivers, but a decrease in dollar amount of the waivers as a whole. More people are receiving benefits, but the overall cost to NIU of those benefits is lower, Chinniah said.

Regarding NIU’s investments, the total holdings balance is up $8 million from FY20. NIU’s total holdings as of June 30, 2021 are placed at just over $136 million, of which “approximately $84 million is available for daily operations providing for more than 60 days cash on hand,” according to the Aug. 26 Board of Trustees agenda.

FY20 also saw 16 findings by the Office of the Auditor General that were either a material weakness or a significant deficiency. A material weakness is the most severe type of audit finding and a significant deficiency is less severe than a material weakness, yet still considered important enough to merit attention in the report, according to the agenda. One of the findings was determined to be a material weakness and the other 15 were significant deficiencies. 

“The university has developed formal, corrective action plans, intended to strengthen our internal controls and address each of the audit recommendations,” said Chinniah. “It is worth noting, however, that for items that are either partially implemented or not implemented that NIU will receive a finding in FY21.” 

The board received these results late due to COVID-19 complications, said Dennis Barsema, chair for the finance, audit, compliance, facilities and operations committee. Typically, the university receives the results in February or April.

The budget committee also made moves to upgrade much of the technology on campus. It was approved to spend $400,000 “to expand WiFi coverage in Graham Hall, Reavis Hall, and Swen Parson Hall,” according to the agenda. It was also approved to spend $1.4 million in the first phase of implementing a new security system that would use the OneCard to enter and exit buildings during irregular hours, rather than physical keys.