|President David Glassman|
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today to testify on behalf of the students, staff, and faculty of Eastern Illinois University.
We are proud to be the Illinois public university with the lowest administrative costs per student and the second lowest tuition and fees. And we are situated in a community that was recently ranked the second safest and second most affordable college town in the nation. Our students exceed state and national benchmarks for nearly all academic indicators.
I was honored to become EIU’s 11th president on June 1, 2015. It is a privilege to lead a university with such an outstanding record of academic excellence and passion for student success. Underlying EIU’s tremendous success, I was faced with two significant challenges as soon as I took the helm: state appropriations and enrollment management.
State appropriations fund approximately 23 percent of Eastern’s operations annually, roughly $42 million of a $183 million budget. With those funds not yet having been approved, and in light of a multi-year enrollment decline, I found myself in the difficult position of making significant spending reductions almost immediately upon taking office. I also supported new enrollment management strategies as quickly as possible in an effort to reverse the enrollment trend.
As the academic year began, I eliminated 198 positions and issued graduated-level furlough days to all administrative and professional employees making over $50,000 annually. Those efforts, coupled with some operational efficiencies and cuts, achieved a savings of approximately $10 to $12 million. The reduction in expenses in conjunction with a modest increase in freshman, graduate and international enrollments effectively “right-sized” the university’s expenditures.
We assured our MAP eligible students that we would credit their accounts for their fall MAP awards while we awaited reimbursement from the state. This was at a cost of $4 million. Our faculty forwent a raise they had already negotiated, freeing up $500 thousand, to keep the adjunct faculty in the classrooms rather than being laid off.
It was tough, but we pulled together for our students and our institution. And amidst all this, we were proud to be ranked Illinois' top regional public university by U.S. News & World Report for the 2015-2016 academic year.
As the winter break approached and there were still no state funds forthcoming, we again assured our MAP eligible students that we would credit their accounts for their anticipated spring awards while we awaited reimbursement from the state at an additional cost of $3.6 million.
To ensure our continued operations through the end of FY16 without disrupting instruction, EIU has had to expend all emergency cash reserves, stop all hiring, postpone all construction projects unrelated to safety and security, and severely restrict travel and purchasing.
Unfortunately, as we find ourselves now well into the spring semester, all these efforts still have not been enough to compensate for the complete lack of a state appropriation. Starting this month we have mandated 18 unpaid furlough days (in addition to those previously issued) for all professional staff and administrators -- effectively withholding an entire month’s pay. And as of tomorrow, March 11, 177 civil service employees will be laid off. Of those 177 employees, some are single parents, some are dealing with health issues, and in some cases, the layoffs will affect both husband and wife in the same household. I wish to be clear that these positions are being eliminated not because they are unessential -- we need them -- nor because we are right-sizing the university -- that has already been accomplished. It is solely because we have not received a FY2016 state appropriation. The effects of the budgetary impasse are real for EIU and they are devastatingly real to these 177 Illinois taxpayers and voters who have in many cases dedicated their entire careers to the students of Eastern.
I could never have imagined when I came to EIU last June, that nine months into the fiscal year we would still have no state appropriation. We now stand at a critically threatening precipice having been forced to operate without state funding for almost an entire year. We are not a university with large reserve funds nor are we a university that has more than about $1 million out of our entire endowment that is unrestricted and can be used at our discretion.
This state is starving its universities to death. Potential campus closures and layoffs appear to be considered as wins or losses in a political chess game. We are encouraged to be vocal with our distress and at the same time warned to be quietly patient. Proposal after proposal is filed and lobbed across the aisle only to meet either quick defeat or eventual demise. Parents are literally driving Illinois students across the borders to pursue higher education in neighboring states. By the time Illinois public universities finally get the funds we need to support our students, we are not sure how many students we will have left. I respectively ask our lawmakers, what exactly is the end-game here?
I submit that EIU’s interests, the General Assembly’s interests, and interests of the Governor have significant overlap with respect to higher education and its benefit to the citizenry of Illinois. EIU is supportive of efforts to reduce administrative costs. We are supportive of increasing the state’s investment in performance funding and we are supportive of improving efficiencies through reducing red tape as it relates to procurement and other regulatory issues.
I implore our decision-makers to come together and immediately enact a comprehensive and reasonable higher education appropriation for FY2016. This will provide for financial stability in our operations, allowing us to focus our complete attention on educating our students and reassuring Illinois high school seniors that Illinois public universities are strong and, in fact, remain an excellent choice as they will for generations to come.
I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.