‘The sun is rising’

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WIU President Jack Thomas delivers positive outlook

MACOMB — On Thursday, members of the university community gathered in Western Hall for the first University Assembly and heard a message of positivity during Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas’ State of the University address.
Thomas referenced Benjamin Franklin’s quote regarding the sun cast on the back of the 1787 Constitutional Convention president’s chair.
The original Franklin quote states: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Thomas likened the future of Western Illinois University as that under a rising sun in the wake of the recent state budget impasse.
“The sun is rising on Western Illinois University,” Thomas told assembly attendees.  
“We have weathered some difficult days.  But through the midst of it all, we have created a solid foundation for future success.”
In a recent statement to the university community, Thomas stated the university must continue moving forward with “guarded optimism” in light of the recent governmental and financial woes.
Part of that includes preparing new goals for the administration.
According to Thomas, six goals for the 2017-2018 academic year include:
• Investing in high-growth and high-demand programs.
• Expanding educational opportunities, including new and enhanced academic degree programs.
• Enhancing recruitment and retention strategies.
• Expanding public service and community engagement efforts.
• Increasing external funding to limit cost increases for students.
• Continue mission-driven planning and fiscal management.

A hand-out presented at the assembly notes the annual impact of Western Illinois University on the 16-county region. Impacts include the generation of $473 million, 3,905 full-time and part-time employees, $226 million in labor income and $74 million in local, state and federal revenue.
Eight-nine percent of the university undergraduate students are from Illinois. The student makeup includes 61 percent as Pell grant eligible, 46 percent are MAP grant eligible, 42 percent are first generation freshmen, 20.9 is the average incoming student ACT score and 3.21 is the average incoming high school student GPA.
Regarding racial or ethnic makeup, 64 percent of students are white or caucasian, 11 percent are hispanic, 19 percent are African-American, one percent are Asian, and five percent are from the international community.
Thomas stated the FY18 fiscal year should receive $46.3 million in appropriations based on the state budget. He noted this is a 10 percent reduction from the previous FY15 full appropriation of $51.4 million. There is an estimated $10.4 million incoming for FY18 MAP funding. The state has appropriated $10.9 million to cover the FY17 MAP funding and an additional $20.1 million to raise the prior FY17 total to $59 million.
Students begin classes on Monday.

Reach Jared DuBach by email at jdubach@mcdonoughvoice.com.

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August 20, 2017 at 12:05AM

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‘The sun is rising’

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