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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

NIU Trustees Approve Budget Request, Fee Changes & COVID-19 Testing Funds

NIU's Altgeld Hall
Susan Stephens
NIU's Altgeld Hall

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees approved several major fiscal measures at its latest meeting Thursday. 

First, they approved a fiscal year 2022 budget request of $98.9 million. This is compared to $93.6 million last fiscal year. They also approved several cost changes for students. Chief among them is a new 80 cent per credit hour fee for culture and diversity programming. President Lisa Freeman said the money will help attract “high value” speakers that a lone student organization couldn’t bring in on its own.

“And the kind of speakers that would really generate interest across the university, bring together students from different backgrounds, and then compliment that speaker with some type of out-of-the-classroom learning activity to capitalize on what was said.”

She also elaborated on the funds such a fee could generate. 

Credit NIU Board of Trustees

“So if you look at the number of undergraduates who take 12 credit hours per student and multiply that by 80 cents, I believe we wind up with about $280,000 per year.”

Despite this new fee, overall undergrad, graduate and law fees would drop by 70 cents per credit hour due to lower transportation charges. This means an undergraduate taking the minimum required amount of credits would save $8.40 per year.  

Credit NIU Board of Trustees

The board also approved a 2% increase in campus room and board fees for fiscal year 2022.

The board of trustees are also are giving the go-ahead to spend up to $1.2 million to support COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff for the rest of fiscal year 2021. President Lisa Freeman said it’s a cap to allow for flexibility with regards to the disease’s spread and the rollout of vaccines.

“The per test cost is anticipated to be $20-25. This is a significant decrease from the $80 per test cost we’ve encountered in the fall, and this cost reduction is associated with the availability of new testing options, including the SHIELD saliva test developed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.”

Trustees also approved a payment of $390,000 to the Mid-American Conference to finance up-front costs of COVID testing for its football players. NIU and other conference schools expect to have this money reimbursed later by revenue from the College Football Playoff.