State budget impasse 'starving' Illinois higher education

Kevin HoffmanReboot Illinois

Jan 26, 2016
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Illinois higher education funding has been $0 since July 1

As Illinois heads into its eighth month without a budget, several public universities are bracing for layoffs, furloughs and spending freezes to stay open.

In a letter to the campus, Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman announced Monday a series of immediate cost-cutting measures he said are needed to get the school through the spring semester, including halting all non-instructional capital equipment purchases, supply purchases and capital projects, as well as delaying maintenance and repairs that aren’t related to safety and security.

“Incredibly, the state’s legislature and governor have yet to approve a state budget for FY16. This unprecedented action means that EIU has not received any of our annual appropriation (typically around $40 million), nor MAP reimbursement for EIU students (approximately $9 million),” Glassman said. “Our state government is literally starving its public universities.”

Glassman also warned of potential layoffs and furloughs for hundreds of non-instructional employees beginning in March unless the school receives appropriations from the state.

At Western Illinois University, the board of trustees voted Monday to authorize staff reductions through June 30, 2017, despite significantly reducing operating expenses.

“Like our fellow state institutions, WIU continues to experience cost increases and unfunded state mandates, coupled with declines and delays in state appropriated funding and lower student enrollment, resulting in significant fiscal challenges,” said WIU President Jack Thomas. “The current and the unprecedented state budget impasse further compound this difficult situation, requiring the University to make difficult decisions to address the serious challenges facing our great institution.”

And at Chicago State University, officials have said that without state funding, the university won’t be able to fund operational costs past March 1.

In fiscal year 2015, the state appropriated $1.95 billion to higher education. But since July 1, public colleges and universities have received no state funding, requiring them to rely on tuition dollars, reserves and spending cuts to make their budgets work.

The budget stalemate also is taking its toll on some 125,000 students who rely on financial aid through the Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, including those enrolled at community colleges and private institutions, forcing some students who can’t make up the difference to drop out of school.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has criticized the state’s higher education institutions for the mismanagement and abuse of public funds through excessive administrator salaries and golden parachutes, among other things. The Rauner administration wants public colleges and universities to implement spending reforms before there’s any movement on higher education funding.

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