Illinois public colleges reach 100 days without state funding

'We are on the brink of serious operational damage'

Illinois entered its 100th day without a budget on Thursday, marking the 100th day its public colleges and universities went without state funding.

The stalemate in Springfield is taking a toll on the state's 12 public universities, 49 community colleges, and students. The budget was due July 1; the state has been operating without one since then.

Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) wants to implement steep funding cuts and has frozen a range of programs until the fiscal year's budget is complete. Earlier in the year, Rauner's budget plan called for a 31.5% drop in higher education funding, translating to a loss of more than $200 million. Since then, institution presidents have met with the governor, urging him to scale back the cuts to 8.6%, or $57 million, which has been proposed by the legislature.

In two states alone, colleges may lose $807 million

The lack of a budget is hurting schools' ability to lead research and teach students, presidents of nine universities said in a letter to Rauner and legislators last week.

"The impasse casts a shadow of uncertainty over the campuses. We are on the brink of serious operational damage," the letter said.

While the larger University of Illinois is able to operate almost normally, other smaller schools such as Eastern Illinois University (EIU) are hurting.

At a hearing on Monday, EIU President David Glassman told lawmakers that his school is in danger of closing for spring semester if a budget does not come soon. It found $12 million by eliminating 159 positions and has dipped into its savings, but Glassman says they cannot do much more.

Illinois State University (ISU), meanwhile, cut 76 positions, implemented a hiring freeze, and halted all noncritical construction. The school can dip into savings for now, but not knowing how long the standoff will last makes it difficult to know how much money to save or use, ISU President Larry Dietz says. 

School officials also say that after this semester they can no longer front the Monetary Award Program grants, which the state froze in July but institutions have so far provided to students in financial need (Meisel, I Will Radio.TV.Online, 10/5; AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 6/28; AP/State Journal-Register, 10/1; Werth, News-Gazette, 10/7).

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