BOT approves preliminary $148 million budget

Sam Fishel, Staff Reporter

The Board of Trustees passed a preliminary FY’17 budget worth about $148 million Friday, citing uncertainty related to the expected appropriation received from the state of Illinois.

During the meeting, Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, said that the diminutive FY’16 numbers have caused significant difficulty when planning for FY’17.

“Because of the state’s budget impasse, we are having significant difficulty in identifying what numbers we should be using,” he said. Illinois has failed to pass a complete budget, including higher education appropriations, since July 2015.

Timothy Burke, chairman of the finance and audit committee, noted that “the entire revenue number is in flux” until the state provides more concrete estimates for the upcoming year.

McCann added that this budget was constructed so that the board could fulfill its duties of passing a balanced budget despite the ongoing uncertainty.

The budget itself represents a nearly $20 million cost reduction compared to FY’16. This includes an 11 percent decrease in expected tuition and student fees. Despite this, McCann believes that no further cuts in student programs or faculty will be necessary.

The budget also includes a new system for contracting charter buses for athletic and academic travel. The university will now make bids to three bus companies – Bales Unlimited, Cavallo Bus Lines, and Peoria Charter Coach – instead of a single company. As a result, the university will have better flexibility in providing transportation to university groups

Bales will remain the primary provider for the university, with Cavallo and Peoria Charter as secondary and tertiary providers respectively. The new plan is expected to cost about $400,000 annually.

To accommodate these expected losses and expenditures, the Board passed a set of student fee increases.

The first, a $3.64 increase in the Union Bond revenue fee, will go to pay salaries, provide maintenance, and offset “significant cost reductions” at the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. The new fee will be $25.81 per credit hour.

The second increase will raise the capped number of hours charged under the Health Service fee. Previously, students were charged at a rate of $10.10 for their first 9 credit hours. The new increase will raise this cap to 12 hours while retaining the same per hour rate.

The third and final increase passed by the Board allows for a $5 increase in transcript fees, from $5 and $10 to $10 and $15 for regular and rushed processing respectively.

The board also approved a pair of new degree programs. They hope that the new programs will provide needed workplace skills while keeping Eastern at the forefront of several growing fields.

The first new program will be an M.S. in Talent Development. According to Austin Cheney, chair of the school of technology, the program was created with the assistance of experts at the University of Chicago and will offer an entirely online curriculum for those seeking to improve their competency skills in the talent development field.

In addition, the program will not require an increase in faculty or resources.

Vice chairman Kristopher Goetz commented that he is involved in this field and strongly believes that such a program would offer a highly desired skill set.

The second program, a B.S. in Computer and Information Technology, will offer students an opportunity to excel in a rapidly expanding field. Modeled off of similar programs at colleges and universities in Illinois, the program will “fill a need” for the university as it previously lacked such a program.

Cheney said that several transfer students have already lined up to join the program. It will also be offered through the School of Technology.

Despite the uncertainty and in light of the new programs, board chairman Joe Dively said that he has “tremendous confidence that our best years are ahead of us.” Despite these “unprecedented times,” he told to Board that he holds great confidence in President Glassman’s leadership.

He added that the “resilient spirit of EIU” will persevere through these difficult times, fueled by the optimism of the president, students, faculty.


Sam Fishel can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]