Speeches, Presentations and Statements

State of the University Address

September 20, 2017

Speeches

Rainbow PUSH Remarks- 10/20/18

It's a great honor to be invited to speak here today.

Last year at about this time, Rev. Jesse Jackson came to our campus in DeKalb to help us open a traveling museum exhibition called "Quilts and Human Rights." He spent the day talking with students and faculty, and he told us that quilting is a great metaphor for an inclusive society: individually, different pieces of cloth are just rags, he said, but sewn together, they make a blanket of strength that warms and protects us.

That was just one of the things I remember about Rev. Jackson's visit. Publicly, he also encouraged us to "start conversations that are out of your comfort zone," and, as a university, we embrace that challenge. Privately, Rev. Jackson told me that even though DeKalb is an hour away from Chicago, he said, "We're too close to be far from each other." And, of course, he was right.

So today I want to tell you about Northern Illinois University.

We're a major research university with a strong commitment to student success and community engagement. NIU was founded in 1895 - we are almost 125 years old. Currently, there are nearly a quarter of a million NIU graduates living around the world. The majority of these alumni have lived and loved and built families and careers here in the State of Illinois - in Chicagoland.

From its earliest days, NIU has been committed to social justice and inclusion.

We've recognized for a long time that talent is universal, whereas opportunity is not.

In 1968, we created a program called CHANCE to identify, recruit, admit and assist students who show promise for succeeding in college despite limited preparation and resources. After 50 years of service to students on NIU's campus, with more than 15,000 alumni, NIU graduates who were admitted through CHANCE are now serving their communities as dentists, teachers, physicians, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, accountants, athletes and public servants.

Many alumni continue to support the program by volunteering to assist currently enrolled students as they pursue their academic goals at NIU, or by providing scholarship support to today's talented students.

We have a great example sitting here with us today: The chairman of the NIU Board of Trustees, Mr. Wheeler Coleman. Wheeler, will you stand?

Today, our university continues its tradition of providing access and opportunity. NIU is committed to all of our students and their educational pursuits, regardless of their immigration status. We support our student-led organization DREAM Action, and share their belief that higher education is a fundamental human right for all, regardless of citizenship status. We have created a new position specifically to help undocumented students navigate their college education and their complex personal lives. And we are working with our students and our donors to increase the number of grants and scholarships available to undocumented students who are not eligible for state or federal financial aid.

Regardless of background, we know that the biggest challenge for most students who want to attend college is the cost. That's why we have made scholarships our No. 1 fundraising priority at NIU. We recently announced $5 million worth of new scholarships, with a large percentage aimed directly at students who have attended Chicago Public Schools or are transferring from the City Colleges of Chicago. If you have a student or know of one who might benefit from this type of financial help, please go to niu.edu/aimhigh for more information. That's niu.edu/aimhigh.

At the beginning of my remarks, I described NIU as a major research university. You may wonder why I emphasized research, so allow me to explain.

At NIU, our students - even freshmen - get a chance to engage in research and artistry projects, mentored by professors from our nationally and internationally recognized faculty.

The diverse identities, perspectives and experiences of our students contribute to the success of these efforts, because diversity is a dimension of excellence.

And, our students benefit from this type of engagement, because it fosters critical thinking skills, an appreciation for balancing risk and rewards, and an understanding of the discovery and innovation processes.

This past week, we hosted a large career fair at NIU. When I spoke to the employers who hire our students as interns and employees, they complimented our students' professionalism and their ability to work effectively on teams with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. We are proud of that. At the same time, we want to make sure that our students are prepared not only for success at that first job, but for success throughout their lives and careers - in graduate or professional school, in executive leadership positions, as entrepreneurs - or wherever their dreams dictate.

Last week, we held a news conference to announce a new research facility on our campus. The Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability will focus on issues that impact our future and our quality of life: food systems … water resources … and environmental change. The Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability will create locally based innovative solutions for a world with fewer natural resources, more extreme weather events and a more urbanized environment. This is the kind of research that will help Illinois expand its economy and address issues like food deserts here in Chicago. And yes, students will be part of that important work.

If I sound like I'm extraordinarily proud of NIU, it's because I am. We have excellent faculty and staff, a beautiful campus, a growing portfolio of online degrees and a community that strives to be welcoming and inclusive. We were among the first universities in Illinois to create the position of Chief Diversity Officer - you're going to be hearing from her in just a minute - and the programming she and her staff have developed tackles tough issues head-on. When we ask our students and our professors why they chose NIU, or what they value most about our university, the rich diversity of our student body is consistently at the top of their list. To borrow a metaphor from Rev. Jackson, we celebrate every piece of our living quilt.

Thank you for inviting me here today. For those of you with children or grandchildren thinking about college, please encourage them to explore NIU. They'll be glad you did. Thank you.

State of the City Address - 10/03/18

It is an honor and a privilege to be invited to share the stage here with Mayor Smith to reflect on the state of our community in 2018 … It is a testament to the strength of our city-university partnership that NIU is routinely invited to participate in this way.

When I stood here a year ago, we had just received our first state budget in nearly two years. Along with our public university colleagues around the state, we have spent a good deal of time since then trying to reverse the damage that was done and restore financial stability to our institutions. That work continues in 2018, but at NIU we are not allowing those challenges to limit our thinking about the future. We are moving forward rather than looking backward.

As we think strategically about the next five … 10 … and even 20 years, there is a common theme in all our discussions, and that is partnerships. Virtually every major initiative we are involved with or are planning involves partnerships with other colleges and universities … with the private sector … with philanthropists … and of course with our local community.

Let me give you a handful of recent examples (some already mentioned by the mayor):

  • The merger of local bus services to create a better and less expensive public transportation system in DeKalb and Sycamore.
  • The connection of the bike and walking path that goes through our campus to the DeKalb Nature Trail and Prairie Park.
  • Bringing the very popular VeoRide bike rental service to NIU and DeKalb.
  • Installation of more than 250 banners up and down Lincoln Highway and Annie Glidden Road.

These are all projects that could only happen through city-university partnerships. They are quality-of-life improvements that benefit all our citizens, and we’re proud to have been partners in bringing them to life.

Sometimes partnerships grow out of regular interaction between individuals or entities, as with the projects I just mentioned. But other times, they develop out of unplanned conversations and chance encounters. Here is one such example:

The head of our Computer Science program, Dr. Nick Karonis, was having a conversation with one of his alums who works at Discover Financial Services. Nick was interested in providing new research opportunities for his undergraduate students. Turned out, Discover was looking for ways to capture the innovative thinking of tech-savvy college students for product development. The result is a newly renovated space in Founders Memorial Library, dedicated to a new program called “code_orange.” Forty undergraduate students will be paid to work on new Discover technologies in the areas of mobile-software development, web-application coding and person-to-person payment systems. In addition to the great experience for our students, code_orange has attracted significant national media attention, including from the Wall Street Journal. A great example of a university-industry partnership with countless benefits for both partners! We’ll be dedicating this new space later today.

Up to this point, I’ve talked about partnerships on some very well-defined, individual projects. Now I’d like to shift to three other initiatives, all very large undertakings that contain multiple programs and many potential partners. In all three cases, we believe these initiatives can be huge game-changers for our university and for DeKalb.

First, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law late last year created a program aimed at targeting underdeveloped areas with new private investment. The Opportunity Zone program provides significant tax advantages for investors who reinvest capital gains into projects in these zones.

This very new and not yet well understood program caught the attention of City of DeKalb economic planner Jason Michnick. With only days to apply, Jason successfully nominated a section of northwest DeKalb for Opportunity Zone designation. That area includes nearly all of our DeKalb campus, as well as most of the Annie Glidden North corridor.

Since learning of the designation, we have since met with financiers and have been told that DeKalb offers a combination of characteristics not seen anywhere else in the country – peri-urban location, access to interstate highways, rail, an airport, existing fiber optic networks and a respected research university. We have also heard that the amount of private money available for Opportunity Zone investments nationwide is more than $6 trillion, and that investors are anxiously awaiting the final IRS guidelines that will help them choose the best projects.

At NIU, we’ve chartered an Opportunity Zone Task Force that is developing projects for consideration. Generally speaking, the areas we’re looking at include community revitalization, manufacturing, health care and food systems innovation in the context of community sustainability. You’ll be hearing more about Opportunity Zones in the near future – and I want to give a shout-out to Jason Michnick for his great work in recognizing this opportunity and including our campus in the proposal he submitted. Jason?

The second game-changing partnership I want to tell you about involves the related entities of the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute (often abbreviated DPI).

The Illinois Innovation Network will link DPI, a public-private research institute led by the University of Illinois System and headquartered in Chicago, with partners across the state. Five hundred million dollars have already been appropriated to fund the project. As the primary hub of the Illinois Innovation Network, the Discovery Partners institute will facilitate research projects that combine the expertise of faculty at multiple universities. We’ve been working with our University of Illinois colleagues to become the first non-U of I affiliated hub in the network, and on Oct. 9, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen and I will be holding a news conference here in DeKalb to announce the outcome of those discussions.

I’m very excited about our involvement with DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network. We’ve identified research themes that include food systems innovation, water resource stewardship and preparation for climate change. In addition to research programs that involve a wide variety of academic areas, we will also focus on public policy development and environmental law.

The innovation hub concept includes multiple universities and provides an attractive platform for attracting private partners. It will provide the opportunity for our students and faculty to become involved in collaborative research, engagement and education projects.

I mentioned that one of our foci will be in the area of food system innovation, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to give a plug for an upcoming event:

On the evening of November 13 at the Egyptian Theatre, the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, or DAAHA, will be hosting an amazing event that I hope many of you will attend. It’s called An Evening with Innovators, and it will feature a conversation among three nationally recognized experts and two local entrepreneurs who have experience and success supporting food systems innovation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I serve on the DAAHA board and have been involved in planning this event – but even if I weren’t, I would make time to attend. A few weeks ago, I spoke at the dedication of a new historical marker at the former DeKalb Ag/Monsanto building on Sycamore Road. As I told the audience then, one of the things that attracted me to DeKalb was its rich history of agricultural innovation. Capturing and celebrating that legacy provides a platform for networking that will help us to inspire the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

The final game-changing project I want to mention is the Annie Glidden North Project.

AGN is critically important to NIU. It is where the majority of our students live; it houses many of our Greek organizations; it is located on the border of our campus; and it is deteriorating. Nearly 25 percent of DeKalb’s total population lives in the AGN area, and it is time to reintegrate this neighborhood into our community.

Mayor Smith has already spoken at length about this project and the collaborative work of the appointed task force with area residents and the city’s consultant, but I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to reiterate NIU’s strong support for this important undertaking.

In the limited time I have left, I want to mention a few other partnerships that are enhancing our university and our community:

  • Kishwaukee College is a tremendous asset to this community and a great partner with NIU. The programs we work on together are too numerous to mention, but I would like to mention that, for the fifth year in a row, we have seen an increase in the number of students who transfer to NIU from Kish College to finish four-year degrees.

We hope to encourage this positive trend. Therefore, under the new Aim High scholarship program, in Fall 2019, qualifying entering transfer students from Kishwaukee College may be eligible for a one-time $3,000 Kishwaukee College Transfer Scholarship.

My counterpart at Kish, Laurie Borowicz, is here today, and I’d like to acknowledge her as a great partner and education advocate. Laurie?

  • Northwestern Medicine is still a relative newcomer to our community, but they have not wasted any time in getting involved with important local initiatives. Look for more announcements in the near future about partnerships between Northwestern and NIU. Northwestern CEO Jay Anderson is here today, and I want to acknowledge him as well. Jay?

Two recent events that both showcased our community and engaged NIU students were made possible by our strong partnerships:

  • The inaugural “Campus Meets Community” event brought 43 DeKalb businesses to our campus to showcase their offerings to NIU students. Thanks to the DeKalb and Sycamore Chambers for helping make that event a success.
  • And the new-and-improved Corn Classic Run more than doubled its number of participants for an event that took runners through our campus and into the downtown for a well-attended “Taste of DeKalb” finale. Again, amazing what we can do in partnership with each other!

Finally, I want to let you know about a school grants program funded by our athletic conference, the Mid-American to promote positive relationships within our local community. NIU has strong partners in both DeKalb superintendent Jamie Craven and Sycamore superintendent Kathy Countryman. So, when the university received a total $5,000 from the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers platform, we provided $2,500 each to the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts.

  • With these funds, the DeKalb School District will support faculty and staff professional development and the implementation of a Diversity Plan.
  • The Sycamore School District will support Second Steps, an instructional program rooted in social emotional learning that equips students to foster positive relationships, conflict resolution, and good choices.

And NIU support for local high schools is also evident in our deployment of funds under the new Aim High scholarship program:

  • Qualifying entering freshmen who will be 2019 graduates of a DeKalb County high school may be eligible for one-time $3,000 DeKalb County Scholarships.
  • Further, DeKalb County high school graduates who are active members of Youth Engaged Philanthropy (YEP) may each be eligible for an additional $1,000 award if they meet the AIM HIGH family income thresholds.

If there is one thought I’d like to leave you with, it is this: Whether we are university employees, city staff, health care workers, private business people or public school officials, our future and our success are inextricably linked. Relationships are resources, and we dare not waste them. Every day, in every way, we are better together. Thank you.

Presidential Vision - 08/30/18

Read the transcript of President Freeman's open form address.

Statements

You Matter - 10/26/18

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

One of the aspects I enjoy most about being president is having the opportunity to interact daily with our diverse and caring NIU community. Your willingness to share different perspectives, new ideas, personal triumphs and even concerns is inspiring and something that I deeply appreciate.

For many of you, I can tell there is a lot weighing on your hearts and minds related to social justice, human rights and equality. This is especially true today as transgender and non-binary Huskies experience fear and uncertainty while their gender and rights are being questioned at the national level. Here at NIU, we value and champion all members of our community. I want everyone to know that NIU sees you – you matter, and are a part what makes this university strong and vibrant.

NIU’s greatest strength is our diversity, and fostering an inclusive and equitable culture continues to be a top priority. Together, this university will always stand on the side of embracing individuals and their rights. We are proud to be a community of diverse people, ideas, services and scholarly endeavors, and we are proud to promote a climate of respect for the intrinsic dignity of each individual.

Dialogues on Critical Topics - 10/4/18

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

NIU places a high value on creating and maintaining a university culture rooted in civil discourse. When we listen and engage with the intent to objectively understand, versus to judge or condemn, we better ourselves and our university. Sharing your voice is powerful and important.

While there are many topics I could point to where civil discourse is needed, two particularly high-profile situations currently present us with dialogue-worthy opportunities to learn from them and create pathways for inspiring change. The first is the current trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald; the second is the pending judicial appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Any verdict or decision reached in either situation will leave questions and a range of emotions.

A variety of students, faculty and staff will be hosting multiple opportunities this month to join in co-facilitated dialogues to discuss critical topics related to these cases. I encourage us each to consider participating in, or promoting, the events in some way. Additional topics and ideas are always encouraged and can be sent to president@niu.edu.

FY19 State Budget Pending Governor's Signature - 6/1/18

Gov. Rauner has indicated that he will sign HB109, which would approved an FY19 spending bill that provides NIU:

  • Operating budget of $83.6 million – a 2 percent increase from our FY18 allocation.
  • Funding for FY19 MAP grants that remains flat from FY18; however, the university will now have the opportunity to provide students with multi-year MAP funding. This reform emerged from the bipartisan, bicameral Higher Education Working Group. It will allow us to be more competitive in our recruitment of new students, and to give those students more certainty regarding their financial aid packages over the course of their college careers.
  • $6.8 million toward supporting the first phase of the critically needed boiler replacement project.

This is all positive news for our state, for higher education in Illinois and for our students. This funding will allow us to continue the important work of maintaining excellent academic programs; to begin to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock in FY16 and FY17; and to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.

I deeply appreciate your commitment and effort to be excellent stewards of our university, budget and resources. We have worked hard together to advance academic excellence while making NIU more effective, more efficient and more sustainable. While it is important that we continue this challenging work, we must also develop innovative and new ways to build resourceful relationships that help us to grow and thrive. This will enhance our reputation as we evolve with – and shape – the changing landscape of higher education.

Go Huskies!

House Appropriations Committee Testimony – 4/11/18

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Lisa Freeman, and I'm the acting president at Northern Illinois University. I have at the table here with me today our Acting Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher McCord and our new Vice President for Administration and Finance Sarah McGill.

Since this is an appropriations committee, I'll get right to the point. Public higher education in Illinois is at a difficult crossroads. We're coming off of a very challenging two- to three-year time period—a period in which operating budgets were reduced, capital projects were shuttered with costly delays incurred, and student aid payments were delayed to thousands of our students. The budget impasse and this period of uncertainty have created doubt about the future of higher education in Illinois among students and parents, university faculty and staff and members of the business community. That is why we must work together to restore their confidence and to create a sustainable financial model for public higher education in our state.

Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, NIU has continued to serve students and society. This past summer, the university was cited positively in a report issued by the Brooking's Institution for simultaneously producing important research while also extending social-mobility opportunities to students from low-income households. This recognition highlights exactly what distinguishes NIU from other universities in Illinois and elsewhere—our commitment to providing students from all walks of life with a higher education experience that engages them in knowledge creation. The university's combined emphasis on opportunity and innovation maximizes NIU's long-term, positive impact on our graduates, on their families and communities, and on our regional economy. Please note: of NIU students graduating from 2015 to 2017, 85 percent remain in Illinois. Illinois companies that employ more than 200 NIU graduate, include Abbott Laboratories, Allstate, Caterpillar and Northern Trust Company.

The governor's recommendation would provide NIU with $81.9 million in General Funds support for FY19. However, I am advocating for $91 million, the level of base funding received by the university in FY15, the fiscal year prior to the budget impasse.

To provide additional context, I would like to share that NIU continues to generate $900 million a year in economic activity in the northern Illinois region. Compared to our budget request, that's nearly $10 generated for every dollar received. We are not just an expense line in the state budget—we are an investment that continues to deliver positive returns with respect to people's lives; attracting and developing businesses; and supporting our statewide economy.

To continue this important work, NIU and other public universities need predictable, adequate, stable funding from the state of Illinois. We need this to maintain excellent academic programs; to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock; to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds.

NIU and other universities also need flexibility to operate in an efficient and economical manner. NIU is looking forward to a thoughtful discussion of civil service and procurement reform that will allow the university to adapt to the changing landscape. Current processes and procedures often prevent us from making prompt, practical changes in university operations.

NIU recognizes that in return for predictable, stable support and enhanced flexibility, the university must commit to increased accountability. 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. That is why we have signed on to the Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment (IPAC).

NIU is continuously striving to streamline its operations, rethink processes and procedures, economize whenever possible, and leverage relationships as resources in an attempt to adapt to the changing higher education landscape.

For example, NIU will be holding tuition flat and decreasing fees for FY19—the fifth consecutive year that we have held these essentially unchanged.

We also work closely with community college partners to develop innovative arrangements and seamless pathways for the benefit of our students. We offer multiple degree completion programs at colleges such as Rock Valley and Harper College. We are collaborating extensively with our neighbor Kishwaukee College to develop high-impact transfer pathways and three-year baccalaureate degree pathways. In fact, we have just celebrated a formal agreement on a customized RN-to-BS pathway that allows students to complete an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing at Kish while taking a number of BSN classes at NIU.

Importantly, NIU engaged in a Program Prioritization process that reviewed every academic and administrative program across the university. To date, this process has had $16.1M in financial impact, including the transformation or elimination of more than 65 academic programs, and the elimination of three vice presidencies.

I appreciate the opportunity today to provide testimony to inform the decision-making process. I want to reiterate that what we're talking about is more than a budget appropriation—it is both an investment in and commitment to our state's educational and economic future. NIU is committed to being excellent stewards of our university and region, and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with all members of the General Assembly, the IBHE, ISAC and our institutional colleagues in achieving our mutual goals.

Thank You.

Senate Appropriations II Committee Testimony – 2/22/18

Good afternoon and thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Lisa Freeman and I'm the Acting President at Northern Illinois University. I have at the table here with me today our Acting Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher McCord and our new Vice President for Administration and Finance Sarah McGill.

Chris and I are not new to NIU but are relatively new in our current roles. Sarah is new to NIU; however, she is not new to the state of Illinois. She comes with experience from the university of Chicago and most recently Northwestern University. We are very glad she joined us as our new CFO.

As we have heard from the IBHE and others today, public higher education in Illinois is at a difficult crossroads. We're coming off of a very challenging two- to three-year time period, a period in which operating budgets were reduced, capital projects were shuttered with costly delays incurred and student aid payments were delayed to thousands of our students. The budget impasse and this period of uncertainty have created doubt about the future of higher education in Illinois among students and parents, university faculty and staff and members of the business community. That is why we must work together to restore their confidence, and to create a sustainable financial model for public higher education in our state.

Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, NIU has continued to serve students and society. This past summer, the university was cited positively in a report issued by the Brookings Institution for simultaneously producing important research while also extending social-mobility opportunities to students from low-income households. This recognition highlights exactly what distinguishes NIU from other universities in Illinois and elsewhere – our commitment to providing students from all walks of lifewith a higher education experience that engages them in knowledge creation. The university's combined emphasis on opportunity and innovation maximizes NIU's long-term, positive impact on our graduates, on their families and communities and on our regional economy.

I'd like to share that more than 95 percent of our undergraduates come from Illinois, and most of them stay here after graduation. For NIU students graduating between 2015 and 2017, 85 percent remained in Illinois. Illinois companies that employ more than 200 NIU graduates include Abbott Laboratories; Allstate; Caterpillar; and Northern Trust Company.

Senate Bill 3377 would provide NIU with $81.9 million in General Funds support for FY19. However, I am advocating for $91 million – the level of base funding received by the university in FY15, the fiscal year prior to the budget impasse.

For context, I would like to share that NIU continues to generate $900 million a year in economic activity in the northern Illinois region. Compared to our budget request, that's nearly $10 generated for every dollar received. We are not just an expense line in the state budget – we are an investment that continues to deliver positive returns with respect to people's lives; attracting and developing businesses; and supporting our statewide economy.

NIU and other public universities need predictable, adequate, stable funding from the state of Illinois – to maintain excellent academic programs; to address critical repair and maintenance needs; to rebound from 700+ days of fiscal and political gridlock; to recruit and retain qualified students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds.

NIU and other universities also need flexibility to operate in an efficient and economical manner. NIU is looking forward to a thoughtful discussion of civil service and procurement reform that will allow the university to adapt more easily to the changing landscape. Current processes and procedures often prevent us from making prompt, practical changes in university operations.

NIU recognizes that in return for predictable, stable support and enhanced flexibility, the university must commit to increased accountability. NIU continuously strives to streamline its operations, rethink processes and procedures, economize whenever possible and leverage relationships as resources in an attempt to adapt to the changing higher education landscape. We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of public funds, and to offer an education that is not only high quality, but also accessible and affordable.

For example, NIU will be holding tuition flat and decreasing fees for FY19 - the fifth consecutive year that we have held these essentially unchanged. Moreover, NIU students do not pay per-credit-hour charges above 12 credits per semester. This tuition structure provides a financial incentive for students to take "15 to finish," with 15 credits/semester being the number necessary to graduate within four years.

We also work closely with community college partners to develop innovative arrangements and seamless pathways for the benefit of our students. And, we go beyond guaranteed admission, reverse articulation, 2+2 and 3+1 agreements. For example, we offer multiple degree completion programs at Rock Valley and Harper College. We are collaborating extensively with our neighbor Kishwaukee College to develop high impact transfer pathways and three-year baccalaureate degree programs. In fact, we have just celebrated a formal agreement on a customized RN-to-BS pathway that allows students to complete an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Nursing at Kish while taking a number of BSN classes at NIU.

To update you on initiatives that I shared last year, NIU has engaged in a Program Prioritization process that reviewed every academic and administrative program across the university. To date this process has had $16.1M in financial impact, including the transformation or elimination of more than 65 academic programs, the elimination of three vice presidencies and the generation of over $1M in recurring, annual savings from replacement of individual desk top printers with shared technology.

I appreciate the opportunity today to provide testimony to inform the decision-making process. I want to reiterate that what we're talking about is more than a budget appropriation – it is both an investment in, and commitment to, our state's educational and economic future. NIU is committed to being excellent stewards of our university and region, and we welcome the opportunity to work closely with all members of the General Assembly, the IBHE, ISAC and our institutional colleagues in achieving our mutual goals.

Thank you.

Tax Reform Legislation - 1/16/18

Welcome back to all faculty, staff and students. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful and fulfilling year ahead. I'm writing today to provide you with an update on an important federal development.

Just prior to the end of 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) and most of its provisions went into effect January 1, 2018. This is the most sweeping revision of the U.S. tax code since 1986.

NIU worked closely with other universities across Illinois and the nation to engage and inform legislators as they crafted this legislation during November and December 2017. Many of you also contacted your elected officials. Thanks to these efforts, the final law does not eliminate a number of threatened provisions from current law that enhance the affordability of higher education for students and families. For example, the bill maintains the tax-exempt status of tuition waivers for graduate students as well as university employees and their dependents. The law also preserves the Lifetime Learning Credit for part-time students and tax deductions for student loan interest.

However, this legislation includes provisions that will increase costs for the university and likely for students and families as well. The legislation unfavorably changes the treatment of certain types of university income and reduces tax incentives for charitable giving, potentially stifling philanthropic gifts that support student scholarships, academic research, athletics and other core components of the university. The new limit on individual state and local income tax deductions could further complicate the state's investment in public higher education.

The full magnitude of this legislation's impact on the university, students and their families will come into sharper focus as the details of the law are analyzed in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the American Council on Education'scomprehensive site for a further explanation about the impact of tax reform on higher education.

As always, NIU is committed to ensuring that an outstanding, affordable public education at NIU remains within reach of all Illinoisans.

NIU Stands with Our DACA Students - 9/5/17

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

In response to today's decision from the White House, I want to reassure our community that everyone at NIU is committed to all of our students and their educational pursuits, as well as to our employees, regardless of their immigration status.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to come forward safely to request (A) to remain in the country and (B) to receive work authorization. If granted, those allowances were good for a period of two years and subject to renewal if the applicants met a series of guidelines. Participants were not eligible to receive federal or state financial aid for higher education here in Illinois and were required to pursue other avenues to finance their education.

Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on behalf of President Trump, announced the termination of the DACA program, stating that it will immediately begin winding down with limited renewals and no new applications for legal status being considered after today. As details and clarity emerge, we will update the FAQ page for our students and have staff available at both the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and the Latino Resource Center to help our students understand and navigate information and options.

Today's federal action will understandably cause concern, confusion and even anger for many of our undocumented students, their families and the faculty, staff and students who are their advocates and allies. I want to be clear that NIU stands with our students, regardless of their immigration status. Moreover, we are committed to admitting and retaining students regardless of status or nationality. We will also continue to support undocumented students through privately funded scholarships; student support groups and faculty advocates; counseling and consultation services; academic and cultural resource centers; and Ally training on how to best advocate for undocumented students.

NIU encourages our elected officials to reach a legislative solution quickly that enables each of our students and graduates to work, participate meaningfully in our society and contribute to the economic health of our state and nation. If you want your voice heard on this matter, engage with the student-led organization DREAM Action NIU to learn how to advocate on its behalf with state and federal legislators.

In this dynamic time, undocumented students and employees at NIU might be shouldering fears about their future and families. They are deserving of your kindness, respect and encouragement.

To our undocumented students: You belong at NIU. We want you here, and we are prepared to help you navigate how to continue on your educational journey. Continue to go to class. Refuse to let this action interfere with your goals. You are here to earn an education so that you can better yourselves: When you are educated, informed and engaged, you are just what our nation needs. Tap into the offerings and leadership available in our Resource Centers – they are welcoming to all students, faculty and staff in need of guidance and dialogue.

NIU will continue to take measures to support and assist our undocumented community, and I encourage students, faculty and staff to continue to communicate with the university on important legal and social issues that affect these Huskies. Our commitment to being a diverse, inclusive and welcoming university will not waver.

Leadership Meetings

Contact Dr. Freeman

Office of the President
Altgeld Hall 300
815-753-1271
president@niu.edu

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