Effects of the Budget Crisis on NEIU


Although the university has estimated it will save roughly $225,000 to $250,000 through its furlough program, the reception among the NEIU community has not all been well.

Dr. Jon Hageman, coordinator and associate professor of anthropology and the chair of the university planning and budgeting council, said the furloughs—which account for a 20 percent pay cut to all university employees—hit some members of the community harder than others.

This situation is truly horrible, that because of the state’s inaction we are forced to furlough employees to make it to Sept. 15,” Hageman said.  “For some, this means they won’t be able to pay the mortgage or the car loan, or maybe buy groceries or pay the light bill.”

A lot of departments have begun to see an impact when even a month ago they believed they were still doing alright. Dr. Mary Kimble, a biology professor, said her department’s research has been affected.

Some dollars that had been allocated to us for running the teaching labs was taken back,” she said.  “The impact of this will likely be felt more in the summer and fall than this semester as our lab manager generally orders supplies in advance.” 

Also, I believe our two newest faculty lost some of the startup funding they were promised for getting their research labs up and running,” Kimble added. 

“If we eventually lost our accreditation it would take years to get it back and during that time students that attended Northeastern would not be eligible for federal student aid.”

— Jon Hageman

Foreign exchange students Minju Choi and Haein Kim, both juniors at NEIU, talked about the rumors of the school closing. Choi said that since Kim wanted to sign up for another semester with NEIU but given the current situation, she had worries.

“You should go back to Korea,” Choi joked.

She explained that she and Kim were making light of the situation.

But jokes aside, Choi said that her friend feels hopeful that the school will make it through these next couple semesters and as far as she knows her friend is keeping with her intentions to enroll next semester at NEIU.

Edgar Camargo, a freshman at NEIU majoring in biology, said that he hadn’t even heard about the situation regarding the university’s budget difficulties. He said that the thought of NEIU possibly closing makes him “kind of unnerved.”

“I was planning to do my undergraduate at NEIU,” Camargo said. He explained that transferring to another school would result in higher costs, especially considering it would be further from his job.

One reason he came to NEIU was as a financial move but also that he liked the professors and would be disappointed to transfer and “lose a lot of really good people.”

Hageman said he was concerned about the future of NEIU’s accreditation, which would be put in jeopardy if the university were to close at any point.

“We can’t afford to close…closing would be horrible because we’d put our accreditation at risk,” Hageman said. “If we eventually lost our accreditation it would take years to get it back and during that time students that attended Northeastern would not be eligible for federal student aid.”

Though the university and its community appear to be under distress, some feel very positive that NEIU will pull through as they promised.

“I think we will make it through the fall,” said History Instructor Dr. Nikolas Hoel. “But I can understand why there would be fear that we wouldn’t.”

Hoel said that the greatest impact he’s seen this situation have on the NEIU community, and within his own department, are: The loss in morale, a scared student body and having their department chair gone one day a week because of furloughs. This has cost the history department to function around 20 percent less efficiently, though he said it hasn’t impacted the students directly.

But it’s not only the public university’s finances at risk because of the budget impasse. Gov. Rauner also has been back and forth on an issue regarding funding for student MAP grants.

Olivia Cronk, an English instructor, said the uncertainty regarding the MAP grants alongside the greater budget crisis has brought out stress for students, faculty and staff.

If people don’t have access to education, their civil rights are being denied,” Cronk said in a Feb. 26 email “What kind of democracy is that?

A key factor for funding is enrollment, which could be affected by the impasse. “The damage that our state legislators are doing to the university is the uncertainty they’re creating…it is likely to have more of an impact than the absolute absence of dollars,” Kimble said.

NEIU’s budget is 35 percent state funding and the remaining 65 percent is from student tuition. This is why enrollment plays such an important role, however Hageman mentioned that the state appropriation exceeded tuition funding around 2002.

Hageman also said that currently, from what he has heard, enrollment for next fall is at a record high with somewhere around 1,700 applicants. Though both Kimble and Hageman stress the importance of enrollment the state funding is still considered an important factor.

Hageman said institutions that are for the greater good of the community, such as public universities, now seem to be caught in politics.

“I think it is inappropriate to use higher education as a political issue,” Hageman said. He clarified that this was his view as a faculty member, and not the official position of the UPBC.

An impasse between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the democratic state legislators since July 2015 has left the state without a determined budget in place. This has been a heated issue ever since.