University News

President Thomas: FY18 House Appropriations Testimony

April 10, 2017


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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL -- On April 6, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas discussed the ongoing financial situation at WIU and described how the budget impasse is affecting the University and the west-central Illinois region at the Illinois House Appropriations Committee Fiscal Year 2018 budget testimony.

"The lack of a full FY16 and FY17 appropriations continues to have devastating impacts on our students, on our employees, on west central Illinois and on the entire State of Illinois. Many of our best and brightest faculty and staff are being actively recruited by universities across the country and are leaving our state for more stable positions in other states. In addition, in 2015, 45 percent of Illinois high school students who enrolled in college left the state. We can assume that the number of students leaving the state for other universities has increased since the state's budgetary situation has deteriorated. This intellectual capital may not return to Illinois, with the effects of this loss of social capital being felt for years," Thomas told the legislators. "It will subsequently create a void in our prepared professionals who are striving for jobs as teachers, nurses, small business owners, police officers, and others."

Thomas added that over the past year, WIU has been forced to institute extreme cost-saving measures.

"Our administrators, faculty and staff have participated in furloughs or salary reduction programs last fiscal year as well as this fiscal year," he explained. "Fifty-nine employees have taken advantage of a University-sponsored early retirement incentive program, and we were forced to lay off over 100 employees. Further personnel and curricular decisions will have to be made soon, should the University not receive a state appropriation.

"The impasse has seriously affected WIU and the region. Western is one of the largest employers and economic drivers in the west central Illinois region. Western has nearly a half- billion dollar economic impact annually on our 16-county region. Because of the ongoing budget impasse businesses are closing, people are unable to sell their homes, cities are facing lower tax revenues and economic shortfalls, people are losing their jobs and poverty is increasing," Thomas said. "The pain from this budget impasse is particularly acute in our region that lacks the economic stability and diversity of other regions in the state."

Thomas also shared that despite these funding challenges, WIU continues to advance its mission and niche in providing a high quality, well-rounded educational experience to a diverse student body. Because of the University's efforts to ensure a quality education for all citizens, in March 2016, the United States Department of Education recognized WIU in the top two percent of over 2,000 colleges and universities nationally in the retention and graduation of low-income students. Western was also one of 11 colleges and universities from across the nation selected to be highlighted in the U.S. Department of Education's College Completion Toolkit, which features schools that are increasing college completion rates for students.

"We have been responsive to the needs of the state and our region as we have recently created programs in community and economic development, applied statistics and decision analytics, and mechanical engineering," he said. "All of these programs are helping to develop high-quality, college graduates for employers in Illinois.

"But our students, parents, alumni, donors, employees and community members, question the State's commitment to higher education," Thomas stated. "This impact affects all of our funding streams, from appropriations, to tuition to donations. We respectfully ask that you reverse this crisis of confidence by adequately funding higher education in Illinois."

Thomas' full House testimony can be found at http://wiu.edu/news/lecture_archive/fy18testimony.php

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations