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A Budgetary Tale of Two Campuses

Images from Western Illinois University
Western Illinois University has a campus in Macomb and one in Moline called the Quad Cities campus

Western Illinois University has two campuses: Macomb and the Quad Cities. But that is not readily apparent when looking at the school's overall budget because it does not include a breakdown of revenue and expenses by campus. A new report aims to examine those costs.

Faculty Senate Chair Christopher Pynes said the organization made several requests to the administration over the years for a budget breakdown by campus.  Those requests went nowhere. But when Board of Trustees Member Todd Lester asked last summer for an income statement for each campus, the budget director complied.

The Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee then used that data to compile its own “WIU Income/Expenditure Comparison” report that concludes, “The Macomb campus has been subsidizing the Quad Cities campus” and that the Quad Cities campus “...has thus far not lived up to expectations.”

Report Findings

Western estimates the Macomb campus generates 92% of all student credit hour production at the university with the other 8% coming from the Quad Cities. The university internally divvies up state appropriations accordingly - Macomb receives 92% and the Quad Cities gets 8%.   

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee’s report shows that when state appropriations and tuition dollars generated by each campus for Fiscal Year 2018 are added up and expenses are subtracted, the Macomb campus lost $1.7 million and the Quad Cities campus lost $1.8 million.

Pynes told the Faculty Senate that’s significant given how much smaller the Quad Cities campus is compared to Macomb.

“These are the kinds of analyses that are important for us to understand our relationship between the two campuses, especially when our upper administration keeps saying they’re going to cut in some areas and reinvest in the others. If we are going to be cutting and reinvesting, if we are going to be promoting, then we have to know what we have and what we don’t have,” Pynes said.

“What frightens me more than anything is that we don’t have an actual clear picture of the last 10 years of spending on this campus and income. We just don’t have it.”

The report’s calculations go one step further regarding Fiscal Year '18. When adding in non-appropriated funding to the equation and subtracting additional expenses, the report finds:

  •     The Macomb campus made $274,730  
  •     The Quad Cities campus lost $1,457,470

According to the report, the estimates for the Quad Cities campus might be generous. The Executive Committee believes that the way student enrollment for extension courses (online classes and distance learning) is tallied by campus is not appropriate.
Traditional student enrollment for in-person classes is divided up by the campus where faculty teach the class. But Western determines extension enrollment differently. Rather than crediting the campus where the teacher is based, credit is given to the campus where the student’s degree program is based.  
Pynes said the Macomb campus is not receiving proper credit for online classes being taught by Macomb faculty members.

“When you are talking about evaluating degree programs or faculties or campuses, and you’ve got to cut $5 million and you’re telling me you’re going to reinvest into programs, who you are giving credit to the work that people do matters,” Pynes said.

The Executive Committee’s report concludes that “The WIU administration should evaluate the extent to which the Quad Cities enterprise is undermining the long term viability of Western Illinois University.”

Administration’s Response

Interim Vice President for Administrative Services Bill Polley read a prepared statement to the Faculty Senate voicing the administration’s disagreement with the findings of the report. Polley questioned the reliability of information originally provided to Trustee Lester, which served as the basis for the report.

He told the Faculty Senate that Lester’s request for an income statement from each campus might sound simple, but is no easy task. “We do not routinely produce an income statement for each campus because we are one university. And because we are one university we produce one set of audited financial statements,” Polley said, adding that process can take six months.

Polley stressed that the information provided to Lester was not official.  

“Like many financial analyses it may be useful for internal decision making, but its usefulness and accuracy must be evaluated carefully because it is not one of our audited financial statements,” Polley said. “But, even beyond that challenge, the greater challenge is that our accounting system simply is not designed for the purpose of separating transactions between the two campuses.”

Moving Forward

Polley said the Executive Committee’s report does not represent the views of all faculty. He said the report is a starting point, but further conversation and examination is necessary. “We would look for ways to work with you and avoid unnecessary division among the faculty of our two great campuses. We are one university. We are all Leathernecks,” Polley said.  

The more than dozen people watching from the Quad Cities campus via video conference applauded Polley's remarks.

The two Faculty Senators based in the Quad Cities tried to have the report killed. They too questioned the report’s accuracy and said it was creating friction between the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses. None of the Macomb senators supported their motion and it failed.

The Faculty Senate’s budget transparency committee plans to review the campus cost breakdown further.


This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.