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Budget message from President Dietz

This e-mail is a follow-up to my April 30 communication to all faculty and staff members and is intended to provide you with additional budgetary direction as we move closer to the end of fiscal year 2020.

The continued uncertainty of both state support and the impact of COVID-19 on future costs and revenues makes it very difficult to develop a reliable fiscal forecast.

Due to the pandemic, Illinois State recently refunded to students and families approximately $20 million in housing, dining, parking, and student fees. The University has also absorbed additional unexpected costs and lost revenues from cancelled events bringing the total financial impact to date close to $26 million.  Meanwhile, although we hope the Illinois General Assembly will approve a fiscal year 2021 budget similar to last year’s spending plan, there are no guarantees, and lawmakers are currently contemplating potential FY2021 budget reductions.

As you know, the University’s largest revenue stream by far is derived from the enrollment of students, which for decades has been Illinois State’s source of strength and stability.  However, again, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and families are waiting much longer than usual in making higher education commitments, adding to the uncertainty. Usually, students make their attendance decisions by May 1, but pandemic uncertainty will push that timetable back until later this month, or beyond.

We will likely not know about FY2021 state appropriations for at least several weeks, and that could stretch to a couple of months.  Additionally, it may be late into the summer months before we have clarity about fall 2020 enrollment.

Therefore, today, I am asking our vice presidents and cabinet-level fiscal authorities to prepare FY2021 budget scenarios with both 10 percent and 20 percent reductions compared to FY2020.  They will work with fiscal leaders throughout their respective divisions and units to define what this will mean for each area.

In creating budget reduction scenarios, all sources of funds and all expenditure types will be on the table for consideration.  I am asking that vice presidents and cabinet-level fiscal authorities prepare summaries of these scenarios for discussion by June 1.

In all cases, our underlying budgetary rationale must be to maintain Illinois State’s outstanding reputation for delivering a high-quality, higher education experience.  We must also act in a manner that provides the safest environment possible for the University’s students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

As always, as new information becomes available, I will convey it to you in a timely manner.  I continue to appreciate your hard work and dedication as we navigate these unprecedented times.