President Thomas Addresses University Community following Budget Passage

WIU President Jack Thomas addressed the University Community today following the passage of a state budget. Originally, the budget was vetoed, but it was passed after an override by both the Senate and House of Representatives. President Thomas’s full address on this and how it affects WIU is included below.

Dear University Community,

I spent the final three days of the fiscal year in Springfield, capping off a yearlong concerted effort, lending my voice to the call for fair and adequate funding for Western Illinois University. This week, the General Assembly passed a spending bill that provides appropriated funding to Illinois higher education institutions. Western’s allocation is $20.1 million in additional appropriation for FY2017 and $46.3 million for FY2018. This bill also provides full reimbursement for MAP grants for WIU (approximately $21 million for fiscal years 2017 and 2018). After more than 700 days of the state’s ongoing budget impasse, we appreciate that a bill was passed that provides funding for public higher education. We recognize that our government officials faced many challenges, and we appreciate their diligence. We thank our local legislators, and we understand that difficult decisions had to be made. We will continue to work with all of our legislators to keep Western and public higher education at the forefront.

The past few years without a state budget in place have been arduous and have forced public universities and other state-supported entities to make incredibly difficult decisions due to the lack of state support. The long overdue spending bill that was passed will provide predictable operating dollars for Western Illinois University and public higher education. This will allow our University to continue to advance its longstanding mission of providing a quality, well-rounded, and comprehensive educational experience to a diverse student body. While we recognize that Illinois will continue to face difficult financial decisions for some time due to the ramifications of a three-year budget impasse, higher education must remain a priority. We must protect the ability for Western and other state universities to deliver a quality education to all of our citizens. Higher education must receive predictable, adequate, and consistent support.

Because of future uncertainties and the far-reaching impact of the 700+ day impasse, it is vital that we maintain Western’s ongoing fiscally conservative practices, which have enabled us to continue operations during the budget stalemate. Unfortunately, to sustain operations, we have been forced to implement reductions in the form of furloughs, pay reductions, layoffs, hiring freezes, spending limits, and other cost-saving strategies. These measures have allowed us to continue to focus on our mission, which is to serve our students. My leadership team will continue to evaluate how recent state appropriations will impact the University’s overall budget.

We are grateful to our faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, communities, and everyone who advocates for our University. Your support and dedication are appreciated. Western Illinois University will continue to survive and thrive for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Jack Thomas