Friday, February 26, 2016

Two Public Colleges in Illinois Announce More Layoffs and Cuts

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Sarah Brown
February 26, 2016

Two public colleges in Illinois announced additional belt-tightening measures this week as they enter their ninth month without state funding due to a budget impasse in the legislature.

The most alarming news came from Chicago State University, which sent notices of possible layoffs to all 900 of its employees on Friday. It’s not yet clear how many faculty and staff members could lose their jobs. According to the Chicago Tribune, the university’s president, Thomas J. Calhoun Jr., said the campus would still hold classes this summer and fall.

Chicago State announced last month that it would be unable to meet payroll in March unless lawmakers passed a budget. Officials later declared financial exigency, and they said on Wednesday that the university would end the semester early to ensure that its students could finish the academic year.

Western Illinois University officials said on Friday that the institution would trim $20 million from its operating expenses over the next two years, lay off 100 faculty and staff members, and begin a hiring freeze. The university had announced late last year that it would lay off 50 faculty members. That list included a dozen with tenure, although officials later said tenured professors’ jobs were safe for the time being.

Moody’s Investors Service this week downgraded the credit ratings of Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Eastern Illinois University. Eastern Illinois dropped to junk-bond status. A Moody’s analyst said in a statement that the university’s “liquid reserves are expected to be exhausted by the end of the fiscal year,” in July.

Although the state’s public colleges are becoming increasingly desperate for money, the budget deadlock shows no sign of letting up. Bruce V. Rauner, Illinois’s Republican governor, vetoed a bill last week that would have provided $721 million for community colleges and the state’s low-income grant program.

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