The Illinois state budget passed this week included increased funding for higher education. That was welcome news to Northeastern Illinois University, which has seen some financial and institutional turbulence in recent years and also just reached a tentative agreement with its faculty to avoid a strike.
“We’ve had a tough year,” said Jose Rico, chair of the NEIU board of trustees. “These last three years have been very difficult for us and other universities. … We heard (from) our university community every meeting we had how … the budget crisis of the last administration affected them, how … the pandemic has affected the low enrollments. We were the only university this year that were in contract negotiations that did not go on a strike. A lot of it had to do with the work that we did as a board of trustees to build that trust and open communications.”
Rico said the increased funding will offer some much-needed stabilization for the school’s diverse student body.
“We serve, really, the population of the city of Chicago — 60% of our students are women, 60% are students of color,” Rico said. “We have the largest and longest federally recognized Hispanic-serving institution where 40% of our students are Latino. We need state support because in order for us to stay accessible, we need to keep our tuition and fees as low as possible. And so the 7% increase, which comes out to about $40 million of appropriations from the state, allows us to be able to continue our work without an additional tuition increase this year.”