Western Illinois University plans to reduce its spending by $2 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, even though it does not yet know how much money it will receive from the state.
“We still must make reductions in order to protect the future of Western Illinois University,” said President Jack Thomas during a forum Thursday afternoon.
Afterward, he told reporters the cuts will be made even if state funding next fiscal year is level or increases.
”Right now, we have to do that (cut $2 million),” said Thomas. “We can always be hopeful but right now that’s what we’re looking at.”
Thomas and other university administrators said most of the cuts will be achieved through attrition.
The need to further trim spending is based on a few assumptions from WIU Budget Director Matt Bierman. He projected enrollment will drop 1.5% in the fall, tuition will be increased 2% to 3%, and the state will provide no increase in operating funds.
Bierman also projected the current budget will finish $1 million in the black, and he said the restructured contract with faculty will save the university $2 million. Both of those factors prevented the cuts from being deeper.
President Thomas praised faculty for the revised contract and he said WIU hoped to protect employees from reductions.
But John Miller, President of Local 4100 of the University Professionals of Illinois, which represents WIU faculty, said he is concerned about the cuts, three-quarters of which will come from the Provost’s office, which he called the academic function of the institution.
“I think we need to take a good look at (whether) that is the right place to do it. I know it’s the biggest budget area of the institution but is that the right priority to have?”
Miller also said he wanted to learn more about the planned cuts. He said that during Thursday’s forum most of the vice presidents did not provide a dollar figure on how much they would be cutting. And he wondered if savings could come from checking administrative growth.
Miller said he was glad to hear a more positive and upbeat tone from administrators. He wants them to remember UPI has twice given back to Western “…to protect the students and protect the mission.”
Miller also said the biggest challenge faced by Western and the state comes from the continual cuts in state funding for colleges and universities. He believes the state’s long-term economic growth depends on its funding of higher education.