SPRINGFIELD — The presidents of three state universities say their schools likely will be able to continue through the fall semester without drastic changes regardless of whether lawmakers approve more funding before the new budget year begins Friday.
Illinois State University President Larry Dietz, Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn and Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman joined several higher education colleagues Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference to urge the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to approve more funding for universities, community colleges and the Monetary Award Program, which provides grants to low-income students.
Amid the budget impasse between Rauner and legislative Democrats, higher education went nearly a year without receiving any state funding before the governor in April signed off on a $600 million plan that provided 31 percent funding for most universities and 60 percent for Chicago State University, which was on the verge of closure.
“What we really need is a budget for (fiscal year) '16 (and) a budget for (fiscal year) '17 that restores the faith and confidence of the people of Illinois who are sending their sons and daughters to us for a good education,” Dietz said.
There appears to be agreement between the Rauner administration and Senate Democrats on spending an additional $1 billion on universities, community colleges and MAP grants. Republicans have included the plan as part of a larger bill to fund some state operations through the end of December, while Democrats have introduced it as a stand-alone bill.
The plan’s prospects in the House remain uncertain.
Whether or not the deal is approved, Dietz, Dunn and Glassman all said their schools should be able to make it through the fall without drastic cuts.
“We’ll get through the summer, and we’ll get into our tuition revenue that takes place in the fall, and we anticipate that there would not be any further layoffs,” said EIU’s Glassman, who’s laid off hundreds of employees in the past year. “However, it’s all predicated on how enrollment looks in the fall. It’s hard to predict.”
SIU’s Dunn said some reductions may be needed to be made at the Carbondale campus either way, but they won’t affect programs or course offerings.
But the university leaders said the larger issue is the damage being done to the long-term stability of higher education in Illinois.
“We’ve been through a year of this,” Dunn said. “There is no institution that’s positioned to be able to pull this off for yet another year.”