College presidents ask for ‘stability, predictability’

SPRINGFIELD — As much as universities would like more money from the state, at this point what they want most is just to see a budget, the presidents of Illinois State and Eastern Illinois universities said in testimony before a House committee Thursday.

“The most important thing a budget represents is stability and predictability,” ISU President Larry Dietz told the House Appropriations–Higher Education Committee.

Likewise, EIU President David Glassman said, “Stability and predictability is our greatest need at this time.”

The state has not has a full-year budget since fiscal 2015.

Dietz testified that ISU has been fortunate to have high enrollment, which — combined with “responsible planning and conservative fiscal management” — has enabled it to retain the confidence of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“Still, the impact has been profound,” he said, noting that more than 120 non-faculty jobs have been eliminated or left vacant.

Greg Alt, retiring vice president for finance and planning, said there most likely will be more reductions as the impasse continues. Dietz said there is not a hiring “freeze” in effect, but each time there is an opening, it goes through a review process that ultimately reaches his desk.

ISU has not needed to furlough or lay off employees and Dietz said “as of this day, we don’t plan to do so.”

However, EIU has not been as fortunate.

Glassman said that as the university has protected its academic core, layoffs and furloughs have left nonacademic areas “below a minimum acceptable level” and “individuals who were doing one job are now doing three jobs.”

Although the first set of layoffs were made to adjust to a decline in enrollment, the nearly 200 people laid off or furloughed in March all were related to the budget impasse, he said.

The university’s reserves have dropped from $27 million in June 2015, when Glassman became president, to $3 million today, he told the committee.

Northeastern Illinois University canceled classes for two days this week and plans another day off in May to save money. Neither ISU nor Eastern plans to take such action.

“The bottom line is we are going to be open,” said Dietz.

Glassman said, “EIU will come through this storm stronger, bolder … not because of the impasse, but in spite of it.”

Noting that the state of Illinois had a net loss of 16,000 students last fall who went out of state to college, Dietz said schools could have been helped by a concerted effort to keep at least half of them from leaving — through better funding of the Monetary Award Program, for example.

“Think what 8,000 students would have done for all the schools in the state,” said Dietz.

At an average of about $10,000 a year for tuition and fees, those 16,000 students represent about $160 million in lost revenue, he said.

More important than the money, said Dietz, is “the loss of human capital and intellectual capacity.”

Students recruited by out-of-state schools are often the best and brightest, and once they leave the state for college, they are less likely to return, according to Dietz.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, a member of the committee, expressed a commitment to “getting this impasse resolved.”

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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April 13, 2017 at 09:45AM

College presidents ask for ‘stability, predictability’

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