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November 2015: Update

November 13, 2015

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November 13, 2015

Dear University Community,

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, I was invited to testify before the Illinois House of Representatives Committee of the Whole to discuss the impact of the budget impasse on public higher education institutions.

The points shared at Tuesday's hearing included our University's economic impact on this 16-county region and our responsiveness to the needs of the state and our region as we have created programs in such high demand fields as nursing, community and economic development, and engineering, along with offering stellar signature academic programs and many other notable degree programs. I also discussed the ongoing evaluation of academic and non-academic programs to ensure that we are operating efficiently.

I stressed to the committee that despite doing our best to move forward during this financial crisis, we are fighting a crisis of confidence. Our students, parents, alumni, donors, employees, and community members question the state's commitment to higher education. Our students and their parents ask what Illinois is doing for education and how they will choose to invest in it in the future. We continue to counter erroneous claims of closing and alleviate worries of reduced or no financial aid for students. Our admissions team has been increasing its recruiting efforts into even more schools in Illinois, yet interest in Illinois public higher education continues to wane.

As noted, we continue to receive questions about the Spring 2016 semester. I will repeat what I said earlier this semester when rumors began surfacing about the University closing: There is no truth to this rumor, which only serves to undermine this institution. Western Illinois University will be open for Spring 2016 and beyond. To ensure that our students receive the support they need to continue their education, the University Administration has decided that it will again award MAP grants for the Spring 2016 semester. As these were awarded for Fall 2015, we are again providing this money to students in good faith. WIU will carry the liability of the spring MAP funds until the state has reached a FY16 budget agreement.

While changes are inevitable due to the state's fiscal challenges, which certainly affect public higher education, what will not change at Western Illinois University is our tradition of providing a quality educational experience. Our mission of quality education, access and affordability to the citizens of Illinois, continues despite the challenges of the current budget impasse. However, the longer this stalemate continues the more difficult it is to continue to meet our mission.

Our task forces continue to meet to review all cost-saving measures, as well as ideas and initiatives to move our University forward. I encourage WIU students, faculty, and staff to provide feedback and suggestions regarding academic and support programs, cost and affordability, and strategic planning.

We must work together to find viable solutions for our great University. I appreciate the ongoing efforts of our University community to ensure we remain a strong institution of higher learning. Thank you for your continued dedication and support.


Jack Thomas

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations