Click here to see this online

Contact: Lisa Miner
Northern Illinois University
Office: (815) 753-6069
Cell: (630) 418-7887

Contact: Tom Hardy
University of Illinois System
Office: (217) 333-6400
Cell: (312) 543-7476

March 8, 2018

NIU signs onto accountability-based funding bill introduced by U of I System
Proposal would tie appropriations to standards that serve students and the state

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University has signed onto legislation proposed by the University of Illinois System that would guarantee predictable state funding for the universities in exchange for measurable performance standards such as holding down student costs and enrolling Illinois undergraduates.

NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman said the proposed Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment (IPAC) is an innovative solution to ongoing financial challenges facing the state and its public universities. The measure would restore stable, dependable state funding for university operations over the next five years and ensure a tangible return by supporting Illinois students and programs that serve the needs of the state.

“This compact between NIU and the state of Illinois is aimed at both restoring financial stability and boosting confidence in the value of an Illinois public university education,” Freeman said.  “We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of public funds, and we welcome the opportunity to show, in a regular, transparent reporting system, how those investments are paying off.

“For example,” she said, “NIU has held tuition and fees essentially flat for five consecutive years. Our commitments to affordability and accessibility have benefited the state of Illinois because 95 percent of NIU students come from Illinois, and 85 percent of NIU graduates remain in Illinois to pursue careers or advanced study.”

Tim Killeen, president of the U of I System, said the proposed legislation was developed to ensure student success and academic quality, which have been threatened by more than a decade of state funding declines and a two-year budget impasse.

“I am delighted that NIU has joined us to support this groundbreaking bill, which would provide the resources our universities need to plan their future and fulfill their critical role as engines of progress,” Killeen said. “And, just as importantly, it sets high standards that hold our feet to the fire to repay the state’s investment.”

IPAC was introduced in the General Assembly in November 2016, and the measure would be the first in Illinois history to incorporate public university accountability standards into state statute. Killeen said the proposal is among the most comprehensive higher education compacts of its kind anywhere in the nation.

The U of I System proposed the shift to accountability-based funding and worked with legislators to draft legislation, sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), and a bipartisan coalition of co-sponsors from the U of I Caucus.

If passed, the IPAC legislation would also see the state adopt regulatory reforms to improve efficiency and would create a new state-financed fund to support investments in classroom and research facility improvements that help recruit and retain top faculty.

NIU’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to sign onto IPAC, and the university is included in revised legislation that was introduced Thursday – House Bill 5845.

Under the proposal, the state would provide a fiscal year 2019 appropriation of $93 million for NIU. The proposed amount is below historical state appropriation levels, which peaked at $118 million in 2002.

In return, NIU would commit to meet the following performance standards during the five-year agreement, beginning in academic year 2018-19:

•    The NIU Board of Trustees would not increase the base rate of in-state undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees by more than the rate of inflation.
•    Half of new freshmen would be from underserved populations, defined as Pell-eligible, first-generation, or graduates of Chicago Public Schools.
•    NIU would provide the equivalent of at least 20 percent of its annual state appropriation in financial aid for Illinois residents.
•    NIU would maintain an overall retention rate in undergraduate programs greater than or equal to 75 percent, and at least a 50 percent six-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen in undergraduate programs.
•    NIU would increase accountability to the state by providing an annual report card on key indicators, published and updated on the university website. These indicators include:

      • The number of first-time freshmen enrolled.
      • The number of new transfer students enrolled.
      • The number of minority undergraduate students enrolled.
      • The number of undergraduate students enrolled in each college on campus.
      • The total undergraduate enrollment.
      • The number of undergraduate degrees issued.
      • The number of graduate degrees issued.
      • The number of law degrees issued.
      • The total number of degrees issued.
      • The number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees issued.
      • The direct appropriation per undergraduate degree.
      • The direct appropriation as a percentage of total expenditures.

IPAC would lock in accountability-based standards in those same areas for the U of I System, which enrolled a record 83,000 students last fall across its universities in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign. The system is requesting a $681 million appropriation for fiscal year 2019, the first year of the proposed five-year agreement.

“This proposal would provide NIU and the U of I System with much-needed, stable funding from the state legislature," Cunningham said. "But it would also create accountability. The funding would be tied to performance – and that is the kind of approach that is necessary given the state's difficult budget situation."

While IPAC would specify annual funding for the U of I System and NIU during the five years of the agreement, appropriations would have to be approved each year by the legislature and governor. If the state failed to provide the funding specified under IPAC during its annual appropriations process, the universities would not be bound by performance standards for the following year. Likewise, if the universities failed to meet any of the goals, the legislature could revisit the agreement and adjust funding for the following year.

"I was pleased to hear NIU has joined with the University of Illinois System to work toward a stable funding mechanism for higher education,” Zalewski said. “This is an important step in the process of ensuring that each Illinois student has a path toward success by staying in his or her home state. I look forward to working with Senator Cunningham and my colleagues on this revised legislation in the coming months."


About the University of Illinois System: The U of I System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 83,000 students, nearly 25,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 22,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.

About Northern Illinois University:  NIU is an engaged, public research university, widely recognized for success at public engagement, high impact research, and advancing the social mobility of students from diverse backgrounds. Offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees at its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois and at outreach centers in Naperville, Rockford, and Hoffman Estates, NIU enrolls approximately 20,000 students and awards nearly 5,000 degrees annually.