- The Illinois State House and Senate approved a higher education funding measure last week and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature means the state’s colleges and universities will get their first state payouts of the fiscal year.
- The Chicago Tribune reports the stopgap measure will send $600 million to public higher education institutions, which state institutions hope will allow them to keep their doors open through the summer while the legislature and the governor continue to debate a full budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year that started last July.
- While the state government sent funding to K-12 schools, Illinois colleges and universities have been among the hardest hit areas in the state, along with social services, in the continued standoff, which places the first-term Republican governor at odds with a Democrat-controlled legislature.
Chicago State University declared financial exigency in February, laying the foundation for massive layoffs at the struggling school, which also canceled spring break to save costs by ending the semester early. Northeastern Illinois University officials had said the school would not make it beyond the spring semester without money from the state and Eastern Illinois University had planned for hundreds of layoffs. While the state’s flagship has been fairly insulated from the budget crisis because of its reserves, the partisan deadlock has nearly crippled other colleges.
The Higher Learning Commission sent letters in February to lawmakers, the governor and its schools requesting more information about finances and making clear to the government that financial insecurity puts the state’s higher education system at risk of losing accreditation. It is still an open question whether the emergency funding will be followed by timely payouts for the start of the next academic year.