UIC leaders detail impact of budget impasse

piggy bankAs the state budget stalemate nears its two-year mark, university officials are preparing to make additional budget cuts while continuing to diversify revenue streams.

“We have been holding our ground,” Chancellor Michael Amiridis told community members at a town hall held by the Academic Professional Advisory Committee Feb. 9, addressing the budget gridlock’s effects, “but I don’t know for how much longer we’ll be able to.”

Amiridis and other university leaders explained that UIC has not received a full-year budget appropriation since fiscal 2015, and even though stopgap funding was approved in fiscal 2016, sending $180 million to the University of Illinois system, the amount was about 27 percent of what the system expected to receive, leaving UIC with a budget shortfall of about $125 million. The stopgap partially funded Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grants, too, but it only provided $170 million statewide, about 45 percent of the fiscal 2015 appropriation.

To address the shortfall, UIC placed 39 percent of units’ and departments’ state, institutional and student fee accounts in escrow at the close of the last fiscal year; the money is expected to be returned after budgets have been approved.

For fiscal 2017, UIC has received only about six months of its appropriation, said Janet Parker, associate chancellor and vice provost for budget and resource planning. “At this time, we have no appropriation for the remainder of the year,” she added. A gap of $75 million remains.

The state has also failed to fund $32 million in MAP grants, which UIC has accepted “in good faith, expecting the state to pay us back,” Amiridis said. Without further action from the state, the university has a potential liability of being short $107 million in fiscal 2017.

Until a state budget is authorized for this fiscal year, a draft of the fiscal 2017 budget, following the same planning assumptions as 2016, will be posted.

Starting in fiscal 2018, additional measures will be taken to address the shortfalls, including selective budget cuts, which could fall anywhere between 3 percent and 10 percent.

“A lot of it depends on the size of the hole we have,” Amiridis said.

Despite the university’s financial situation, he noted that UIC will not close.

“It will continue to grow, it will continue to grow organically like we have over the last few years and it will continue to grow through merger acquisition, the way we have historically grown over the years,” he said.

And student enrollment has actually increased over the last few years.

“That’s a saving ground for us,” Amiridis added.

Recruitment of students from outside of Illinois, including 39 international students in January, is one of the university’s revenue streams that administrators are focusing on, said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. She expects that the university will establish revenue-producing partnerships for online programs, and deans have been asked to prioritize fundraising. In the future, administrators would like to pursue public-private partnership agreements that could finance the construction of new campus facilities.

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