SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ public universities are bracing for another year of significant cuts in state revenue.

Under a budget proposal floated Friday in the House, direct aid to universities would be cut by 6.1 percent. A Senate version of the spending blueprint would cut the state’s contribution by 3.25 percent.

While university officials wait for the House and Senate to reconcile their financial differences, they also are waiting to hear how much the state will contribute to the employee retirement funds at each institution as part of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s underfunded pension systems.

“We all could be facing a double hit,” Western Illinois University legislative liaison Dave Steelman said Friday. “It’s more bad news. It’s not going to be a good budget for anyone.”

For now, many of the funding questions remain unanswered as lawmakers work toward a May 31 adjournment date.

And even then, it may take some time for the dust to settle.

“It won’t become clear for at least several weeks, if not even a little longer,” said Jay Groves, spokesman for Illinois State University.

The House version of the budget will mean a $4.8 million decrease in the state’s annual contribution to ISU.

Groves said the cut has put faculty and staff salary increases in limbo.

“We do believe we can manage through this scenario if it comes to pass without the need for layoffs or any type of a furlough program,” Groves said.

At Southern Illinois University, the House budget will push the state’s funding share down to $203 million, which represents a $45 million reduction in state funding over the past decade.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said that will mean even more faculty and staff positions being left unfilled in the coming fiscal year.

“It really puts us in a difficult position,” said Poshard. “We’ll do what we have to do to adjust to it.”

At WIU, officials are concerned the budget could result in a reduction of operating funds for its new campus in the Quad Cities.

“There’s a huge amount of uncertainty and fear. We have a lot of concerns,” Steelman said. “It’s potentially very, very bad for higher education.”

Paul McCann, director of business services at Eastern Illinois University, said officials are monitoring the talks in the Capitol and weighing the options, which likely will center on faculty and staff hiring.

“When 75 percent to 80 percent of your budget is tied up in salaries, you have to consider not filling positions,” McCann said.


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