Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Durbin, coalition warn of financial crisis in higher education

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and other advocates for higher education in Illinois on Monday urged legislators and the governor to end the state budget stalemate that has created a financial crisis for many colleges and their students.

Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, and representatives of the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education held a news conference at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Public universities and community colleges haven’t received any state funding since the start of the fiscal year, July 1, and the state hasn’t given schools money to pay for grants to help 125,000 low-income students cover the cost of tuition.

Durbin said higher education in Illinois is at a “breaking point.”

“It embarrasses me and troubles me to think that we’ve reached a point where there are so many innocent victims,” he said.

The coalition -- a collection of business, labor and organizations representing public and private colleges and universities coming together to urge immediate action -- kicked off its push in January to raise awareness of the crisis and build pressure on policymakers for a solution.

At UIS, Chancellor Susan Koch said the state owes the university nearly $18 million. As a result of the budget impasse, UIS isn’t able to fill 25 positions and is implementing a 20 percent across-the-board spening reduction, she said.

If not for increasing enrollment and good fiscal planning, the situation would be much more bleak, Koch said.

“We’re weathering this thanks to increasing enrollment, but we’re spending less in every area,” she said.

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on February 16, 2016.

Read the article online.