Legislative Testimony

March 14, 2013
William L. Perry, President
Eastern Illinois University

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony today and for your continued support of Eastern Illinois University. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with the committee today and provide information regarding the great things happening at Eastern.

Eastern is an affordable, accessible, and accountable university that offers students excellent educational opportunities at the bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist degree levels. As our state continues to face numerous fiscal uncertainties, our institution has strived to be a model of efficiency and effectiveness. Through ongoing planning efforts, strategic resource allocation, and commitment to our mission, EIU continues to provide a high quality educational experience for all students.

Based on the effectiveness and efficiency demonstrated by Eastern, we ask that you fund us at a level that is appropriate, prudent, and provides us with the ability to continue serving students with distinction. As the following information will demonstrate, funding Eastern Illinois University supports instruction that leads to exceptional educational outcomes and operations that strive to continuously increase efficiency.

In spite of ongoing challenges in the state economy that affect Eastern, our faculty, students, and staff are accomplishing great things:

  • Eastern has more students accepted as presenters at the National Council on Undergraduate Research conference than any other Illinois public university. Additionally, we’re in the top 5% in the nation with regard to the number of accepted presenters;
  • This year we received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veteran Education in recognition of our work with student veterans;
  • Eastern was also recognized by the State Fire Marshal for being the first public university to be in 100% compliance with sprinkler regulations;
  • Our faculty, staff, and students are committed to service and their efforts led to EIU being named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll;
  • EIU was named one of 322 Green Colleges by a partnership between the Princeton Review and the U.S. Green Building Council;
  • The Business Solutions Center connects Eastern with the regional economy by offering numerous consulting opportunities to new and existing businesses;
  • Eastern faculty members are being awarded competitive grants from federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Based on the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates, Eastern prepares more undergraduates who go on to earn a doctorate than any other public master’s comprehensive university in Illinois. EIU ranks in the top 5% in the nation in the master’s level university category.

The current state economy has created a number of challenges for public universities. Eastern has taken this opportunity to implement policies and practices that help us mitigate the effect of decreasing GRF appropriations and late payments. Here are a few brief examples of what we’ve done:

  • For FY2013, our hiring freeze has sustained a 5.1% decrease in full-time employee headcount since FY2010. ┬áThis represents 90 full-time positions that have been eliminated without implementing layoffs or furloughs;
  • The hiring freeze in FY2013 will develop annualized savings of $5.1 million;
  • Strategic management of hiring will result in an additional employee headcount decrease of 24 in FY2014 without use of layoffs or furloughs;
  • In the FY2013 budget, Eastern incorporated a 25% reduction in non-personnel operating budgets;
  • These reductions in the operating budget have been sustained since August 2010 and have resulted in savings averaging $1.7 million per fiscal year.

These cost reduction strategies are necessary if we are to remain an institution of opportunity. Eastern must remain affordable and accessible. The demography of our student body provides evidence that we are succeeding. Based on data from students who filed the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance during the 2011-2012 academic year:

  • 30% of our students come from homes with a zero Expected Family Contribution as calculated by the federal government;
  • 37% of our students come to us from households earning under $34,575 per year (150% of the federal poverty level);
  • The average EIU student received $13,481 in financial aid to support his or her educational aspirations.

Eastern also continues to welcome a more diverse student body to campus. We strive to enroll a student body that is representative of the population of the state of Illinois.

  • Since 2004, the number of students from a racial or ethnic minority enrolled at Eastern has more than doubled;

  • Students from racial/ethnic minorities constitute over 21% of our enrollment;
  • The graduation rate for first-time, full-time African-American students at EIU exceeds the national average.

Our practices support our mission as a public university charged with serving residents of the state of Illinois.

  • 98% of our undergraduate students are residents of the state of Illinois;
  • More than 1 in 3 undergraduate students at Eastern transferred from a community college, with most coming from a community college in Illinois;
  • EIU has the second lowest tuition and fees of all public, 4-year universities in Illinois;
  • Eastern maintains the highest freshman to sophomore retention rate (79%) and third highest graduation rate (58%) of all Illinois public master’s comprehensive universities. Our graduation rate has increased to 60%, but the change will not be reflected in IPEDS until the federal data is updated.

Eastern has taken a proactive approach to ensuring that students have the support they need to make their college dreams become a reality. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the General Assembly for supporting passage of legislation that allowed us to create the Panther Promise Scholarship.

Eastern first offered the Panther Promise Scholarship in the fall of 2012. The scholarship offers a tuition waiver of up to $2,500 for low to middle-income students with a household income under 300% of the federal poverty level, or roughly $69,000. By maintaining satisfactory academic progress, the scholarship is renewable for up to four years.

Let me briefly explain the success of the first year of this program. We calculate an enrollment yield each year. This is done by determining how many students, out of all who were granted admission, enroll at Eastern. Our 2012 yield rate was approximately 28%. The yield rate for Panther Promise students was 69%, more than twice the overall institutional rate. In addition, 35% of Panther Promise recipients are students from a racial/ethnic minority. This program has truly enhanced our ability to meet our mission and make higher education a reality for students with financial need.

It is also important to note that, by increasing the yield, the university also realizes increased tuition revenue. By strategically using a tuition waiver, limited to $2,500, Eastern is capable of both increasing tuition revenue via stronger yield and strengthening affordability and accessibility efforts to help aspiring students.

The information I’ve presented to you today demonstrates that Eastern is fulfilling its mission and capably serving the state. This has not happened by accident. We have been engaged in multiple planning processes for the past four years. This planning has included a campus master plan for our physical plant and grounds. In addition, we’ve completed a strategic planning process focused on academic excellence and financial sustainability of the institution. We are currently engaged in a comprehensive analysis of all university programs, academic and non-academic, to provide valuable data for use in programmatic and financial decision making.

We face numerous challenges in Illinois public higher education. At Eastern, we are fortunate to have faculty and staff members who have made the effort to meet these challenges head on and work diligently toward finding solutions that assure we will continue to serve students with distinction. Through planning, strategic resource allocation, and continued commitment to the academic and personal growth of our students, Eastern will continue to capably serve the educational needs of residents of the state of Illinois.

Our tuition increase for next fall is 1.4%, the smallest percentage increase since 1993 and second smallest since 1978. I believe our results should be rewarded with level GRF operational appropriations rather than a cut.

During this year, and in coming years, I look forward to working with the General Assembly to continue seeking methods of strengthening public higher education in Illinois. Thank you for your time today and I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.