Universities on the brink of crisis could end the Illinois budget gridlock

Kristin Tyndall, Associate Editor

It's been nearly a month since EAB Daily Briefing last checked in with Illinois, and unfortunately, the state budget is still frozen in place. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled state legislature have been locked in a series of budget strikes and counterstrikes all summer, since they missed the original deadline on May 31.

Meanwhile, public colleges and universities have gone more than 100 days without state funding. They're in good company. We've been tracking state budget battles coast to coast here in the EAB Daily Briefing all year as funding fails to reach its pre-recession levels.

Back in October, Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman told state lawmakers that his school is in danger of closing for spring semester if a budget does not come soon. Some state legislators are hoping pressure like that can be the much-needed catalyst for a budget deal by the end of the year.

While some individuals have been hurt, this has been mostly "a theoretical budget crisis," state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D) told the Chicago Tribune. "But if this extends to universities and community colleges, and classes start getting canceled and students are told their financial aid money is no longer there, the problem gets a lot less theoretical and a lot more real."

Cunningham added that such a situation—or the threat of it—might be just the thing for solving the budget battle.

Meanwhile, schools are doing their best to keep up business mostly as usual. "At some point in time we believe there will be a budget, and hopefully we can get through 2016," Northern Illinois University CFO Alan Phillips told the Tribune. "Until then, we plan to continue our operations and our recruiting."

The trick, he says, is to avoid giving students any reason to worry that the institution might close next year (Garcia, Chicago Tribune, 11/2).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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