Several Illinois universities this year have drastically smaller freshman classes than last year. It’s almost certainly the result of the Illinois budget crisis, which has cut higher education funding by nearly half and shows no sign of ending.
Bottom of Form
In Fiscal Year 2015, the last year Illinois had a full budget, higher education received $1.9 billion. In the 18-month period that will end Dec. 31, it will have received $1.6 billion.
Included in that figure is funding for the Monetary Award Program, the biggest state financial aid program for students.
When students are unsure whether they can receive state financial aid and when public colleges are laying off staff and — in the case of Chicago State University last year — struggling just to keep their doors open, confidence in the state’s public higher education system is damaged.
That’s an immediate problem that’s represented by the declining enrollment seen this year but also presents a more serious problem in residual damage to the institutions’ ability to attract students and staff in the years after the budget impasse is resolved.
Meanwhile, Chicago State University President Thomas Calhoun this week was ousted by the school’s board of trustees after a nine-month tenure that included some of the most dire times in the school’s history. In another example of problems with higher education in Illinois, Calhoun is expected to receive a severance payout of $600,000. This news came only a week after the University of Illinois awarded a $100,000 bonus to its president, Thomas Killeen, and $75,000 to the chancellor of its Chicago campus, Michael Amiridis.
Excessive administrator pay has been a sore spot with Gov. Bruce Rauner throughout his time in office, and he’s been especially critical of low graduation rates and episodes of corruption in Chicago State’s previous administrations.
These are trying times for Illinois’ public colleges. That’s our topic on this week’s “Only in Illinois.”