I am excited to welcome all of our faculty and staff to the 2017-2018 academic year at Illinois State University. Thank you to the hundreds of people who volunteered their time during move-in and Welcome Week, and made our new students feel part of the Redbird family.
I also offer a special welcome to all of our new faculty and staff members. I am happy you have made Illinois State your university home for this stage of your career. I know you have a great deal to offer, and I trust you will find the University and community has a lot to offer you.
Unlike the past two years, we start this semester with a complete, albeit a bit smaller, budget. On July 6, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto, and passed a fiscal year 2018 spending plan that included about $65 million for ISU. That’s nearly $7.2 million less than the last time we had a full state budget in FY2015, but the appropriation is appreciated—and critical for us to pay our backlog of bills and begin the fresh academic year strong and stable.
Although not noted in the media, the Legislature also completed funding for the FY2017 budget for ISU and all public universities. If you are keeping financial score, the two-year impasse cost Illinois State about $51 million in foregone state funding—lost mostly in FY2016 when we received just 20.9 million in state appropriated dollars—a 71 percent cut from the FY2015 level.
In addition to the financial damage—the state’s image and its reputation in higher education took a substantial hit in terms of public confidence. Many of our sister institutions are still reeling from the impacts—and it may take them years to recover, if they ever fully do.
We can all be grateful to everyone at the University, particularly those who recruit, retain, and support our students. Their ability to “sell” Illinois State to students and their families over these past few years of political gridlock is nothing short of remarkable—so we thank and congratulate them.
Our freshman class is expected to moderate slightly after three years of quarter-century record enrollments. Still, we anticipate a robust total enrollment of over 20,500—and we will be fortunate to begin the year with full classrooms, and near or at-capacity residence halls. Our incoming class also continues a tradition of quality at Illinois State with high standardized test scores and strong high school GPAs.
I expect a very busy and ambitious year—we will make further strides on initiatives to bring more diversity to campus and focus on community engagement and service learning. I look forward to seeing you on campus for our many academic, cultural, social, and athletic events. We will also publicly launch our comprehensive fundraising campaign and celebrate the thousands of alumni, University friends, and employees who give of their time, talent, and treasure to benefit Illinois State.
We can also celebrate that for the third year in a row, ISU has been named a “Great College to Work For,” by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The “Great Colleges to Work For” designation recognizes institutions that have created exceptional work environments. We continue to receive high rankings in multiple categories, including collaborative governance, confidence in leadership, teaching environment, and tenure clarity and process.
Again, my best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive year. In addition to our many campus visits, I can also be reached by e-mail at ldietz@IllinoisState.edu.