Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas on Tuesday said he’s asked the
school’s board of trustees to hold off voting on a plan he’d earlier submitted
that called for cuts of $7.5 million, including the elimination of 50 faculty
positions by the summer.
Additional support and administrative personnel reductions would also be
necessary under that plan, and the school still would be looking for an
additional $4 million in reductions going into fiscal year 2017.
In a letter to the campus community Tuesday, Thomas said he’s looking for ways
to minimize the elimination of positions.
“I will delay these actions if I have a firm commitment that we will all work
together across the University so that savings can be found,” he wrote.
“We will meet with union leaders and other faculty, staff, and administrative
leaders immediately to search for possible alternatives out of this difficult
situation,” Thomas wrote. “We will continue to work with the faculty and
University community to save as many positions as possible, while ensuring
Western has the appropriate resources to fulfill its academic mission.”
Western’s projected all-funds budget for 2016 was $246 million and assumed total
state appropriations of roughly $48.1 million, the same amount the Legislature
proposed for fiscal year 2016, according to the university. That state
appropriation represented a 6.5 percent reduction from the previous year and was
down from $64.3 million in fiscal year 2002.
WIU lists a full-time faculty of 632 and says full-time faculty teach nearly 93
percent of classes. Average class-size is listed as 21 students, and the
student-to-faculty-ratio is 15 to 1 according to the university.
More on WIU’s budget picture is available at
http://www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=13168 and at
Northern Illinois University’s board last week issued a resolution calling for
state leaders to come to an agreement on a fiscal year 2016 budget to both help
sustain the school and provide need-based financial aid for students.
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“Not only are we handcuffed by the uncertainty this creates, but
so are many of our students, as they worry that the financial aid
that they rely upon may not be there to help them earn their
degrees,” NIU board Chairman Marc Strauss said in a news release.
“It is an untenable situation for all involved, and one we want
to see addressed as quickly as possible,” Strauss said.
Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn wasn’t available
for comment on Tuesday, but he’s been quoted as saying the lack of
state funding is creating a problem of crisis proportions.
“It will take us years to dig out … if the state doesn’t fulfill its
commitment,” Dunn told KFVS-TV.
“We’re going to have to figure out a means to pay back about $200
million in operations and about $46 million or so in student aid and
grants and contracts we typically have from the state,” Dunn said.
Meanwhile, university leaders worry that state lawmakers might
ultimately skip this fiscal year’s higher education appropriations
and leave institutions the hook to repay on their own whatever
they’ve borrowed to date.
“Obviously, that would be disastrous,” Dunn told The (Carbondale)
The governor and the four legislative leaders are scheduled to meet
again Thursday afternoon as the state’s fiscal year 2016, now in its
six month, continues without an overall budget.
Even without a budget and leaving many social services and higher
education unfunded, the state is said to be spending at a deficit
rate as it funds primary and secondary education — which the
governor and Legislature could agree on — and satisfies the spending
mandated in court orders, consent decrees and continuing
While the Republican governor and the Democrats who lead
supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly have
expressed some mild optimism over the tone of renewed talks, they
haven’t indicated much, if any, progress on their core positions.
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