Welcome back to campus for the spring 2018 semester.  I hope you enjoyed a healthy and restful break, and are ready for a busy new term.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Teaching and Learning Symposium on January 10.  With the theme, “Expanding Notions of Literacy,” the symposium once again boasted an impressive turnout and remains the single largest conversation about teaching and learning annually at this institution.

As the semester unfolds, we will be looking to Springfield for the upcoming legislative and budgeting session. The spring session is always important for public higher education, but this year it is critical—and I will join with institutional leaders around the state in urging the governor and legislature to build on the momentum of last year’s budget and avoid returning to impasses and stop-gap spending measures.

The failure to pass budgets for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 devastated many Illinois public universities. While Illinois State’s reputation, low debt burden, and careful spending allowed the University to remain strong and stable, a repeat of political gridlock will only cause instability at most public universities, and we cannot allow this to happen again.

Political finger-pointing at Illinois public higher education will not fly as a way to deflect blame away from an election-year political process in Illinois. Over the past two years, Illinois State has left vacant 120 administrative-related positions. Over the past four years, the University not once asked for higher levels of funding during House and Senate higher education testimony. What Illinois State has requested, and continues to seek, is stable and predictable funding, and for our legislative leaders to have a serious conversation about the future of higher education in Illinois—a conversation that includes representatives of Illinois colleges and universities.

Because of your efforts, Illinois State has achieved many successes, and here are just a few.

  • Our graduation and retention rates are in the top percentiles in the nation.
  • We completed a three-year cycle of quarter century record freshman enrollment and now stand at a robust 20,700 total students—the state’s second largest public university population.
  • Our students have a loan default rate 9 percent below that national average (2.8 percent vs. 11.8 percent)
  • We provide accessible opportunity and increasingly reflect the nation’s changing demographics. Nearly one-quarter of our student population comes from underrepresented groups.
  • ISU remains an affordable option. We did not raise tuition or fees this year and disbursed $45 million in merit- and need-based aid and tuition waivers.

Despite our many successes, the state financially penalizes Illinois State students through an archaic funding formula. At $3,551, ISU students receive the lowest per-student appropriation from the state of any public university in Illinois.

Through your work, Illinois State has built and maintains the type of university that Illinois wants, and can be proud of.  Our performance has earned our institution adequate and predictable state funding.  The University has done its job well, and now it is time for the state to do theirs.

As always, I appreciate your feedback and continuing support. We have a great deal to look forward to this semester, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, our Speakers Series, and a variety of academic, cultural, social, and athletic activities.

I also look forward to the continued success of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State.  Thanks to the generosity of our alumni, corporate partners, faculty, staff, students, and Redbird friends, Redbirds Rising has already raised more than $111 million of its $150 million goal to secure our future of scholarship, leadership, and innovation.

I look forward to seeing you throughout the semester, and I thank you for your outstanding service on behalf of our students.

Larry Dietz