Nickel and Dime NEIU


Screenshot by Rut Ortiz

Year by year, state appropriations for public universities have dwindled, with 2015 being the fourth consecutive year NEIU has had budget cuts.

Dollars and cents were the subject of the open meeting to discuss the university budget between concerned patrons, faculty and university leadership.

A panel on stage of the NEIU auditorium consisted of university President, Dr. Sharon Hahs; Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Richard Helldobler; Vice President for Finance and Administration, Michael Pierick; Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel, Melissa Reardon; (former) Vice President for Student Affairs, Frank E. Ross and Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Melba Rodriguez.

“Today we are updating our budget analysis that began on March 3rd to deal with the potential significant cuts from the state appropriation for fiscal 2016,” said Hahs.

Planned Cuts:

Pierick indicated a planned $8 million cut, which is equivalent to 20 percent of the current budget as opposed to Gov. Rauner’s suggested cut of 31.5 percent. These cuts would ultimately end affecting the six budget areas: Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Institutional Advancement, General University, President’s Office and Finance and Administration.

“Eight million dollars is – what I call – a reasonable worst-case scenario,” Pierick said.

According to Pierick, of that planned $8 million, up to $2 million will be identified by President Hahs and Provost and will fall under “General University Expenses.”

Examples of expenses under “General University Expenses” would include possible reductions and even elimination of the general university equipment budget, the pension set aside budget.

Pierick continued, these cuts would also reduce institutional financial aid and implement employee furloughs.

“These have all been discussed but no decisions have been made,” Pierick said. “The remaining $6 million are of the planned cuts of each of our divisions and they’ve been distributed based on percentage of budget.”

Financial Reserves:

“I know this is a controversial topic,” said Pierick. “So what are financial reserves?”

Financial reserves were described as “unrestricted net assets or accumulated financial resources set aside for non-operating or non-recurring expenses.”

The appropriate uses of net (financial) reserves were also defined as “non-recurring expenses that will position the university for growth and expansion and non-recurring short-term and urgent needs.”

Projects that fall under appropriate reserve usage are the renovation completion at El Centro, the Education building’s utilities infrastructure and an expansion to the B building.  A document further explaining the parameters of financial reserves can be found within the Open Budget Channel on NEIUport.


“The cuts to the College of Education and the College of Business and Management will not impact instruction,” explained Helldobler.

“We remain committed to supporting instruction…to the extent that we can,” he said. “We will do our very best to meet the instructional needs of our incoming class and continuing students.”

However, the cuts to the College of Arts and Sciences will impact instruction. According to Helldobler, relieving instruction will be the first action unless there is some reduction to the cut.  If vacant positions are found that will not be hired for, that money will be used to lessen the impact on instruction. Tenure lines are budgeted and those under this plan are protected.

“This is distressing. I get it. I understand it. I feel it. It’s distressing for me. It’s distressing for every member of the senior leadership team and I know it’s even perhaps more distressing for you.”

Changes are set to take effect in the upcoming fiscal year but as of May 6, clarification from Springfield was not yet received.