Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas issued a June Budget Update on June 2 with regards to the historic state budget crisis, which has now gone on for a full calendar year and what now appears extend even longer than that. His letter has been included below in its entirety for you to read.
Dear University Community,
On Tuesday, May 31, the Illinois legislature adjourned without reaching a budget agreement following an unprecedented 11-month budget impasse. As we near the end of Fiscal Year 2016, we urge the legislators and the Governor to reach an agreement that provides a budget for the state of Illinois and public higher education. Our students are our top priority, and it is our hope that our state’s leaders will come together for the benefit of not only our students, but also for the citizens of Illinois.
Western Illinois University has provided a sound and quality education for thousands of students since 1902. I have been asked frequently what the future holds for our University in this time of budgetary challenges and the state’s fiscal crisis. I answer in no uncertain terms that Western Illinois University has been here for 117 years, and we do not plan to cease operations. However, this is a critical situation for Western and other public higher education institutions. This fiscal year has been most challenging, and the emotional impact of the decisions we have had to make has been painful.
Western’s ongoing fiscally conservative practices have enabled us to continue operations during the budget impasse. Unfortunately, without adequate state support, it simply has not been enough to sustain operations without requiring reductions in the form of furloughs, pay reductions, and layoffs, as well as hiring freezes, spending limits, and other cost-saving strategies. These measures have allowed us to continue to operate and focus on our mission, which is to serve our students.
Without a state budget and funding for public higher education, we will preserve our resources, which may include extending the current cost reduction measures and making even more difficult decisions. To maintain a healthy Illinois public higher education system, the budget impasse and further reductions in higher education appropriations cannot continue. While we greatly appreciate the stop-gap funding that was received in April, it was not enough to maintain ongoing daily operations. The absence of state funding and further cuts to higher education erode our institutions of higher learning and the public’s faith in this state and its commitment to higher education.
While testifying before both the House Higher Education Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee this Spring, I reiterated the fact that we are operating our University through unprecedented and unchartered times. The lack of a full FY’16 appropriation and MAP funding continues to have devastating impacts on our students, on our employees, on west central Illinois, and on the entire state of Illinois. We are asking for our state’s leaders to come together to support public higher education so that we are able to educate the people of Illinois and beyond.
In spite of these ongoing budgetary challenges, Western Illinois University continues to advance our mission and niche in providing a quality, well-rounded, and comprehensive educational experience to a diverse student body. We have been responsive to the needs of the state and our region as we have created programs that provide quality graduates. We have been operating with efficiency, productivity, and responsiveness to the state of Illinois, and we will continue to do so. Our mission of quality education, access and affordability to the citizens of Illinois continues, despite the challenges of the current budget impasse, and our mission will continue.
Together, we will advance Western Illinois University’s tradition and mission. Thank you for your continued loyalty to WIU.