March 2023

Dear Colleagues,

Northern Illinois University (NIU) is moving to adopt an equitable, iterative budget planning process that aligns resources with strategic priorities over annual and multiyear time frames, and that achieves long-term financial sustainability through a combination of revenue generation, expense reduction and reallocating resources. After having experienced a decade of declining resources, fiscal deficits and operational challenges attributable to our history of state disinvestment, declining enrollment, the Illinois budget impasse and the COVID pandemic, now is the time to collaboratively turn the page on past challenges and move the university’s goals on resource development and fiscal sustainability forward.

Our plans are consistent with the university’s mission, vision and values, as well as the three overarching goals articulated in Thriving Illinois, the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s Strategic Plan:

In this context, NIU has committed to sustaining budgets that are academically responsive and fiscally responsible; that reflect our dedication to being student-centric and equity-minded; and that demonstrate an ongoing investment in our faculty and staff.

This will be achieved by using tactics and objectives reflective of the recommendations received from Budget Resource Planning Group (BRPG). Provost Ingram, Vice President Middlemist and I support the report’s overarching conclusions, and we look forward to continued engagement with the university community as we move to prioritize and implement the changes suggested in this report.

We are grateful for the thoughtful participation of our university community in discussions convened by the BRPG. We also want to thank Drs. Brinkmann, Blazey and Edghill-Walden, and ACE Fellow Adrienne King, for their work. They did an amazing job not only understanding and communicating our challenges and opportunities, but also synthesizing stakeholder ideas and comments into actionable recommendations.
In the BRPG report and their Oct. 4, 2022, presentation to NIU’s monthly leadership meeting, the members of the BRPG advanced six overarching recommendations to help NIU achieve long-term fiscal sustainability. Many have been incorporated into NIU’s 2023 University Goals. Their ideas are consistent with national trends in higher educationand are appropriate to our situation.

NIU leadership supports the BRPG recommendations and, at the same time, we recognize that we must be thoughtful about what we prioritize. Our efforts need to be sequenced with a focus on removing impediments before advancing major change, and with recognition of our capacity limitations. The following, along with the 2023 University Goals, provides insight into our plans and commitment to action for moving forward:

Budget Planning Process: Equitable, Iterative, Multiyear and Aligned with Mission, Vision and Values

The NIU leadership team agrees with all elements of this recommendation. Accordingly, we are committed to:

As noted in the 2023 University Goals, we have started the work associated with this recommendation, which will require a multiyear effort .

Separate Structural Budget and Innovation Fund

As we move forward, this plan will need to be integrated with the work in progress by our budget office. For example, as a part of this work, we will need to develop consistent budget definitions so that we have a common language that the university, leadership and board understand.

Need for Revenue Generation, Expense Reduction, Reallocation of Existing Resources

Need to Incentivize Units (through “Gainsharing”)

Education, Reporting/Forecasting, Change Management to Drive Increased Transparency and Accountability

Need to Remove Impediments/Strengthen Infrastructure


This is the time for NIU to join universities across our country to commit to a budget planning process that is equitable, iterative, multiyear, aligned with strategic priorities and supportive of innovation. We recognize that eliminating the structural deficit that threatens NIU’s future will require our unwavering support to move forward initiatives focused on revenue generation, expense reduction and resource reallocation. It will also require enhanced IT and data capabilities and significant change in our university’s practices, policies and processes. We look forward to working with you to create and implement new tools, new timelines and new ways of thinking.

Forward Together,

Lisa Freeman

Beth Ingram
Executive Vice President and Provost

George Middlemist
Vice President of Finance and Administration/CFO