UI Provost Discusses Budgeting Strategy During Impasse, Years Ahead
Leaders at the University of Illinois are developing a budget plan for 8 to 10 years down the line if state support continues to fade. There were no specific cuts laid out in the first of three open meetings on the Urbana campus Wednesday. But Provost and Interim Chancellor for Academic Affairs Edward Feser says the U of I has to prepare for the worst as the 9-month state budget impasse continues.
He says that means cutting costs, being more efficient, and better use of resources in academic programs with too few students.
Feser also says the U of I also needs to create "intellectually important" programs to bring in tuition funds, and do better job of fundraising. He also says the U of I should steer clear of further tuition hikes, noting like the U of I, other Big Ten institutions are holding theirs at the same rate the last couple of years.
With no clear idea of when the stalemate will end, Feser says it also means making decisions with a sense of risk in mind.
“Will we have the money, or won't we? We have no idea," he said. "And as a consequence, the amount of labor going into the planning and budgeting process has dramatically increased. It’s more than doubled. I spend a good bit of my week talking about the risks associated with having no appropriation before I can make any decision at all about where we should allocate resources on the campus.”
The U of I is working to internally fill two vacant positions to help with that budgeting process. Feser says it’s easier to be understaffed when there’s a reasonable expectation of what state funding will be.
He says what administrators will not do, is shut down a department just to get the attention of state legislators.
"That would be akin to undercutting the quality of the institution to make a political statement, and that is not what our institutions of higher education should be doing," Feser said.
The state currently owes the U of I $241 million.
The Provost’s office has scheduled two more meetings on the budgeting process for next week. The next is Monday, March 14 from 11:30 - 12:30 p.m. in Room 612 at the Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology. The third is scheduled for Thursday, March 17 from 11:30 - 12:30 p.m, Illini Union, Room A.