NORMAL — The agency that accredits colleges and universities in Illinois has warned the governor and legislative leaders that the continued budget impasse could have “accreditation consequences,” but officials at Illinois State University don't see an “imminent risk” for ISU.
In a letter dated June 22, Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of the Higher Learning Commission, wrote, “As the accrediting agency tasked with assuring quality, I must warn you about the accreditation consequences of the failure to provide sustainable funding for Illinois higher education.”
The letter was reported in Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog.
Gellman-Danley had sent a letter of concern in February 2016 related to the lack of a budget, but her most recent letter said, “These concerns have grown exponentially since that time.”
ISU spokesman Eric Jome said Wednesday, “At this point, we don't have major concerns that our accreditation is at imminent risk.”
He noted that “our enrollment's been consistent and pretty strong” and, financially, “we're still in solid enough shape.”
Not all schools in Illinois have weathered the storm as well, however, with declining enrollments resulting in declining tuition revenue at the same time the state hasn't provided full funding since fiscal 2015.
Even though ISU does not think its accreditation is at risk, Jome said there is concern over “all sorts of impacts” from the budget impasse.
Jome said he does not want to downplay the risks for higher education in Illinois overall.
He expressed hope the accrediting agency's letter will carry “some weight to think about for the governor and legislators.”
In the letter, Gellman-Danley wrote: “Sixteen months after my initial memo there remains no sustainable funding for higher education in Illinois. The continued lack of such funding places the higher education system of Illinois at considerable risk and is injurious to the very students the system purports to serve.”
To be eligible for federal financial aid, students must attend an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the federal government. The HLC is the recognized regional accrediting agency in the Midwest.
Among the “increasingly dire effects of this budget crisis” outlined in the HLC letter are loss of state Monetary Award Program grants for needy students, significantly declining enrollments, loss of faculty and staff, canceled capital projects and diminished cash reserves.
The letter states, "Institutions exhibiting these problems, regardless of cause, are still subject to HLC standards that require the availability of appropriate financial, physical, and human resources."