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WIU finances stabilize but still a work in progress

Courtesy photo

Western Illinois University has worked to address its finances, but the school still faces challenges on that front.

“The most important challenge is really a lack of enrollment growth. If we have a larger increase, we would be able to bring in more revenue,” said President Guiyou Huang.

WIU’s goal is a 15% enrollment increase by 2027.

Western’s headcount did rise this fall by 2.5%. While recruiting for next school year is already well underway, the immediate focus is on retaining students for the spring semester.

Huang said WIU’s two largest revenue sources are tuition and the state. He is thankful for recent increases in state funding, though he’s hoping for larger increases in coming years.

Huang told the Board of Trustees that although financial challenges remain, he intends to at least maintain current programs, services, and staffing levels.

“I have been very firm and clear in that we are not going to do any cutting in any area,” he said.

“There is no hiring freeze. Vacant positions can still be filled, but new positions are not being created with very, very few exceptions – maybe one so far.”

He also said Western needs to curb what he called “financial aid at a discount rate.”

Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration Shannon Sutton concurred.

“We’re working on revamping some of the scholarship opportunities and looking at our net tuition discount rate because the amount of scholarships in the budget has grown exponentially over the last several years. So we’re looking to reign those back in,” Sutton told the board.

“However, as those are issued to students, they are issued for their four years. So it’s going to take a bit longer to turn that ship.”

Trustee Polly Radosh urged the administration to look for grants or other funding sources to help the university switch to more sustainable ways of heating and cooling the campus. She said that will help cut utility costs.

“It just seems like we’re in a cycle that’s not going to go down. It’s going to continue to go up because of expense,” she said.

Radosh also suggested buying electric vehicles and electric mowers.

“We can cut our expenses if we do it more sustainably. It’s cheaper to do it in a green way,” she said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the 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.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.