NEIU to Stay Open for Spring Semester

‘Significant Sacrifice’ Ahead


Northeastern Illinois University will stay open for the start of a Fall 2016 semester, but not without seeing a $9.6 million reduction in spending. The news comes out of a Feb. 23 open budget forum, in which university administrators laid out plans for NEIU’s financial future.

Since, the summer of 2015, Illinois has had no state budget as a result of an impasse between state Gov. Bruce Rauner(R) and a Democrat controlled state legislature. NEIU and other Illinois state schools have had no state appropriations, leaving tuition and grants as the school’s primary source of income.

School officials held the forum in an auditorium packed to the brim with students and professors. There, Dr. Sharon Hahs, NEIU president, took to the podium to not just address the state of the universities, but the changing nature of universities.

“We’re caught up in a nationwide reinvention of higher education, in addition to the Illinois Budget and political woe.” said President Hahs. “We will be expected to innovate. Academically and operationally, but it’s very hard to do that in the midst of a storm.”

Hahs also described the ongoing goal of finding “cost savings” until September, when the fall semester brings in a wave of unrestricted funds to the university.

“We will be offering summer classes; we will be offering fall classes. Northeastern will not close. It will serve ours students,” continued President Hahs. “But if we are to sustain ourselves all the way until September, that will require significant sacrifice. That will include things such as layoffs, furloughs, reduction in force.”

Michael Pierick, Vice President of Finance and Administration went into depth on NEIU’s budget in the months to come.

“We’re going to look at things differently,” said Pierick, ” because we now have to worry not so much about our budget, but about cash we have on hand.” He went on to explain that due to the lack of state funds, NEIU is short $34.5 million in its operating budget.

“We need to cut expenses about $9.6 million to process payroll and other expenses until September 15,” said Pierick. About $6 million, however, will make up cuts from “salary savings.”

Pierick presented three actions to account for the cuts. All open positions will be expected to be kept open in a hiring freeze in effect for the 2016 fiscal year. Furlough days, mandatory days of absence enacted to save costs, may also be implemented. The university may also conduct “temporary or ongoing” layoffs to personnel.

Provost Dr. Richard Helldobler described the procedures the university will by taking in the oncoming weeks, including the freezing of all non-instructional capital spending with exceptions to safety and security. The university will also free most spending except instructional, safety, recruitment and retention. Helldobler also said that the university will review and limit travel.

Helldobler took a moment to talk about improving applications for the upcoming year and to thank faculty and staff in the room.

“I know this is uncertain and stressful times, but you’re doing the work as only you can do it, through the people that need it the most.”

A presentation on the assembly can be found on NEIUport under the “Open Budget Forum” tab, with audio set to be posted the week after. A second forum is tentatively scheduled for March 15, 2016.