U of I Trustees Approves Operating Budget
By Sean Powers
The University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees on Friday approved a nearly $5.5 billion operating budget that includes less money from the state.
It applies to more than 77,000 students and 23,000 employees at the university’s three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The budget is lager compared to last year, but it also includes employee health care and pension payments.
U of I Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr said the state currently owes the University $325 million dollars in unpaid bills.
“I think the big concern is essentially the cash flow of state,” Knorr said. “I think we need to continue to plan for the worst and hope for the best as far as the state’s situation is concerned. I think there is a big concern about continuing to make these Medicaid payments, and also there’s this big pension draw that the state has to deal with.”
University officials say the budget includes $612 million in state appropriations, which is down by $42.5 million. University President Robert Easter said the reduction was expected, but he said the university’s finances are strong.
“The University’s financial footing remains strong, despite the challenges of a long and lingering economic downturn,” Easter said. “Through prudent financial planning and operating efficiencies, we are continuing to advance the academic and research programs that have made the University of Illinois a world leader in education and innovation.”
Trustees met on the Urbana campus for the first time since Easter took office. He replaced Michael Hogan, who resigned after faculty complained about his unpopular enrollment management plan.
Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Hogan’s resignation coupled with lagging state support have created challenges for the U of I, but she said the university is moving forward.
“I really believe that this is a year of opportunity, particularly on this campus,” Wise said. “I’ve started to go around talk about it as a year of opportunity. You know, the distractions that we had last year are over, and we can’t blame anyone else. We have to sieve the moment, sieve the year, and make the very best of it.”
Wise said the U of I has given nearly $360 million in aid to undergraduate students this year, and plans on increasing that by $8.5 million. Enrollment on the Urbana campus grew by 12 percent over the last decade, and Wise said the need for financial assistance has also increased.