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Peters: NIU surpasses goal in first-ever fundraising campaign

DeKALB – The first-ever capital fundraising campaign at Northern Illinois University has exceeded its goal almost a year early.

The True North campaign, which was started in July 2000, has raised more than $150 million, NIU President John Peters announced Thursday during his annual State of the University speech. Prior to that, NIU had raised $35 million during the decade of the 1990s, he said.

“We are pretty excited,” NIU Foundation President Mallory Simpson said after Peter’s speech of reaching the goal. “We are so blessed to have generous, passionate and compassionate alumni and friends.”

True North has provided the funding for three new buildings on campus – Barsema Hall, the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center and the Yordon Center – as well as provided endowed chairs for teaching and research, scholarships and funds for a lecture series for visiting artists and scholars.

The campaign continues until June 30, 2010, Peters said. And the university is using the last 10 months to run “A Little Kindness” campaign, in which “every member of the NIU family, especially faculty and staff” will be asked to consider a gift to student scholarships, he said.

“The size of the gift is not as important as the act of giving itself,” Peters said. “... Keeping our students at the university, on the path to opportunity, is an act of kindness from a caring university. At the end of the campaign, we will know that we did all that we could for our students.”

The need for private fundraising is essential, Peters said. The kick-off to the new segment of the campaign comes as state funding for higher education and student support is shrinking, he said.

Peters noted that when he arrived in 2000, the state provided about 40 percent of NIU’s budget. Today, the state provides about 26 percent, he said.

“There is a breach in the social contract that has existed for 150 years that defined higher education as a public good,” he said. “Today, as battles rage in state capitals across our country, higher education is cast as a private benefit instead of an investment we all make in our future.”

Funding for students is declining too: As of now, there is no funding in the spring semester for the state’s Monetary Assistance Program, which provides up to about $5,000 a year for the neediest students.

More than 5,000 NIU students receive a MAP grant, he said. Many may find it difficult to secure other funding for the spring semester, he said, noting that often the students and their parents do not qualify for loans because they are poor.

“Nothing in my 10 years at NIU has made me angrier – or more alarmed – than this,” Peters said.

Enrollment up

Peters also used his speech to inform the campus community that overall enrollment is up at NIU. Total enrollment, which was taken late last week as required by the state, is at 24,424, an increase of 27 students overall, according to a written statement from NIU.

NIU had hoped to enroll 3,000 new freshmen this year, according to the statement. They enrolled 3,033 this year – an increase of 4.5 percent over last year. New transfer student enrollment came in on target at 2,100, according to the statement.

Total undergraduate enrollment was down less than 1 percent: There are 18,277 this year compared to 18,431 this year, according to the statement. Enrollment at the law school was up 4 percent and at the graduate level was up 3 percent.

On the net

Read the text of NIU President John Peters’ State of the University address,

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