CHARLESTON — Eastern Illinois University’s latest influx of expected stop-gap funding is intended to assist operations through the rest of the year.
Last week, it was reported that the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) is intending to funnel $17 million of the $20 million they received from the state’s stopgap funding measure in June to three state institutions including Eastern.
Eastern was appropriated to get almost $5.6 million, 33 percent of the $17 million, by the end of the year. As previously reported, the funding can only be used to pay down costs incurred this year.
The majority of the funds were allocated to Western Illinois University with $8.3 million of the pot, about 50 percent.
The IBHE determined the money would be allocated to these institutions after they had proven they were in a state of “financial emergency.”
“To be in a state of financial emergency, the university had to demonstrate that it is significantly diminishing all available resources and must satisfy any other factors determined appropriate by the Board,” according to state law.
According to board documents, the money was allocated based off of payroll and enrollment, among other factors.
When the funds will be received by Eastern is unclear as the money will be coming from the state general revenue fund, which has a backlog of bills totaling $10.6 billion.
In addition to the $5.6 million, Eastern is still expected to get the remaining $1.3 million from the state as part of the $26.2 million stopgap funding they were appropriated in the summer, Vice President for Business Affairs Paul McCann said.
Eastern also has tuition dollars coming in to help offset regular operations costs incurred. McCann said that approximately $35 million is brought in from fall semester tuition and $30 million from spring semester tuition.
McCann noted Eastern will be able to operate throughout the budgetary impasse.
“We are pleased to have received the monies from IBHE,” McCann said.
Along with other institutions in the state, Eastern has been getting piecemeal funding while the state legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner still disagree over reforms and budgeting. The state legislature has yet to pass a budget not vetoed by Rauner after over a year.
The university has remained a major advocate to budget specifically a full budget as opposed to the stopgap funding that has come in. EIU President David Glassman said in board meetings that the university simply needs “predictable funding,” even if it is through stopgap-like funding measures
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“If we knew we were going to get ‘X’ amount and it is going to come at this point, that would be much, much better than what we have now,” Glassman said. “At least then, we would know what our budget is.”
Currently, the EIU Board of Trustees has only approved a preliminary budget because of the uncertainties at the state level.
“We’re putting placeholders here because this is what we anticipate because that’s what we’ve have been led to anticipate, but you don’t know until it happens,” Glassman said. “That just has all of the universities handcuffed.”
McCann said EIU leaders remain strong advocates of full funding for Illinois public higher education but will continue to work with the stopgap funding until a complete budget is enacted. All of the state’s universities have advocated together in the past for full and predictable funding.
“We all want predictable and stable funding,” Glassman said. “That is what we want. We are trying to plan at EIU or whatever university you are at, and when you don’t know what you are working with, it is hard to strategically plan.”
As these financial challenges brought on by the state loom, Eastern has been doing ongoing work on an internal review, particularly of its future, through the Vitalization Project. The recommendations from those involved in the project are expected to be finalized soon.
Most of the reports from the workgroups involved in the project are due by Dec. 15 to the university president.