Fiscal year 2016 ended yesterday, featuring a late bipartisan effort which yielded a second stop-gap budget bill. Combined with stop-gap funding approved in late April, Illinois State has received just over $59.2 million that can be used to pay bills for FY’16 and for the first six months of FY’17. ISU also received the remainder of its FY’16 Monetary Award Program reimbursement.
While this piecemeal approach to funding does not forecast a future of predictable and appropriate state investment in public higher education, I am thankful that the governor and legislature did negotiate a compromise that helped salvage FY’16. I also thank Representative Dan Brady, who worked to acquire equitable funding for ISU as part of the budget compromise. I am particularly grateful to our shared governance leaders and the scores of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who carried messages of urgency to Springfield.
Combined with strategic spending, targeted cuts, low overall debt, and solid enrollment, Illinois State completes FY’16 and begins FY’17 strong and stable. The University navigated this past academic year without compromising academic and support services to our students. No layoffs or furloughs meant professors remained in the classrooms and staff members provided services to another record-setting freshman class. The University received high rankings in at least nine publications that rate colleges for quality and value. Our graduation rate increased, our student loan default rate decreased, and our retention rate held steady. Our student athletes made us Redbird proud in and out of the classroom. Illinois State also achieved its second highest private fundraising year in the University’s history.
Our success did not come without sacrifice. Spending at a reduction of at least $11 million forced the University to eliminate or leave vacant more than 100 administrative-related positions. We further pushed back the timelines of non-safety related construction and maintenance projects, curtailed professional travel and cut back on large equipment purchases. Faculty and staff members did not receive merit-based salary increases.
Since FY’17 begins today the same way FY’16 began one year ago—without a completed state operating budget—those austerity measures will continue. ISU will achieve further savings by not filling many positions left vacant through resignation or retirement. Hiring restrictions will remain in place and I will continue to review every hiring request. Construction projects, equipment purchases and travel will likely be further restricted and until the governor and legislature act on a full FY’17 budget, salary discussions will remain on hold.
Fortunately I do not currently see a circumstance that will lead to layoffs or furloughs this year. ISU looks forward to another large freshman class and strong overall enrollment, and despite recent credit rating news, the University remains financially stable.
As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I want to thank you for your service, and for the positive attitude you have shown throughout a very challenging year. I often say that the two things we can control are our planning processes and our attitude. By managing those two elements, we direct our own destiny to the fullest extent possible.
Please enjoy a safe and fulfilling extended holiday weekend, and I look forward to seeing you on campus soon.
Larry H. Dietz