NEIU’s Budgetary Predicament


Tricia Scully

Gov. Rauner’s proposed cuts leave NEIU’s future plans unclear.

If Gov. Bruce Rauner is cutting funding for Illinois public universities by 31 percent, how can NEIU justify more spending?

Beyond the debate on eminent domain and if it is ethical to forcibly appropriate privately owned property for the usage of a public university, the rationale behind spending more money in the midst of such a pervasive cut in state funding should be questioned.

There is an inconsistency in the way that NEIU’s construction budgets have been portrayed in the local media. The El Centro campus that opened last year was said to have cost $27 million as reported by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader.

But according to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, Edward Jones Investments won a competitive bid to finance the construction of the El Centro campus with interest in what is essentially a 30-year loan with a variable interest rate that gradually climbs from 3 percent to 4.1 percent annually until 2041.

This means the El Centro campus is actually costing NEIU about $49 million.

If something that is said to be a $27 million dollar investment actually costs $49 million, does this mean that the $50 million investment for student housing will actually cost somewhere around $80 million after interest?

When Gov. Rauner cuts $11.5 million from NEIU’s annual budget, the money to fund the “Decade of Dreams” is going to have to come from somewhere else.

Rewind to the beginning of last year where the NEIU Independent’s front-page headlines were “There Will Be Cuts” in January and “NEIU’s Future Includes New Tuition Rates” in March, written by staff writers Emmanuel Gonzalez and Leslie Diaz.  These articles described the discussions of cutting faculty and raising tuition, however, tuition will remain the same for the coming year.

The complicated misunderstanding that NEIU finds itself in today is a culmination of contradictions.  On one hand the university is expanding, on the other it is cutting back, and now the newly elected governor is pulling out the rug from beneath its feet.

Now is not the time for NEIU to try and change from being a commuter school to a residential college.  The most responsible and rational thing for NEIU to do would be to come to an agreement with the teacher’s union, provide wider hours of availability for its classes/class times, and continue to give working class students an option for their higher education.

On behalf of the students, I want to ask NEIU to slow down with its version of manifest destiny and focus on the immediate task at hand: providing a quality education and giving us reasons to be proud of our institution when we become NEIU alumni.