President Thomas said this is the second year where the university has not received a state appropriation but has received stop gaps. He was told Western may continue to receive stop gaps.
He said hopefully WIU would get a full budget at some point, which is very much needed.
“It really hinders us in terms of our planning and reaching the goals that we have set in our strategic plan when we do not get full funding from the state,” Thomas said.
President Thomas said Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a 15 percent budget cut based on the fiscal year 2015 budget. The university can get from a half a percent up to 5 percent back from the 15 percent based on performance-based funding.
Thomas said Governor Rauner wants to increase map funding by 10 percent.
The university receives $11 million per year on MAP funding. About 3,000 students are MAP grant eligible and about 2,700 actually received map funding this academic year.
The WIU administration covered MAP funding last year for each semester and currently is covering MAP this semester. He said the university has received most of the funding back except for this semester.
President Thomas said the university wants to make education more affordable and many of the students come from low social economic backgrounds. Last semester, the freshman class had more than 1,500 students and 42 percent of them were first-generation college students.
Thomas said that in the fall, WIU tuition was reduced by three percent, which helped in terms of looking at the overall freshman enrollment which was only down by .5 percent. He said this means the university was down by 8 students as compared to previous years.
“Our goal is to stabilize the enrollment,” President Thomas said. “But at the same time we want to make sure that we make education affordable.”
For Fall 2017, the tuition will remain leveled which means it will not be increased or decreased.
Western’s enrollment has dropped from 10,000 students to about 9,469 students.
“We want to at least keep our enrollment around 10,000 students or more if possible,” President Thomas said.
He said Western has held summits in terms of meeting with principles, superintendents and counselors in various areas at high schools. This will let people learn more about the university and, Thomas said, could lead to their students attending here.