AU lays off visiting lecturers to fund state grants for students

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AURORA – Aurora University is planning to cut 30 full-time faculty lecturers and 15 administrative staff members due to a lack of state funding resulting from the continuing budget impasse, a spokesman said.

The problem is the state stopped funding $6 million in annual Monetary Award Program grants, which help some 1,500 students, university spokesman Steve McFarland said.

As the state is in its second year without a budget, no MAP grant money has come to the university for its students, McFarland said.

The university pledged to make up that gap for each student who qualifies for the MAP grant, because they “should not be burdened by a political stalemate,” McFarland said.

“The last couple of years caused us to cut more and more from our operating budget,” McFarland said. “It’s not just faculty; we’ve had a number of administrative staff who have also been let go and positions eliminated. We’ve had salary freezes, and, finally, we just could not overcome the effects of Springfield any more.”

The school’s officials told 30 full-time lecturers that they would be cut from the private university’s staff at the end of the spring semester. McFarland said the faculty lecturers are on year-to-year contracts, as opposed to assistants and full professors who have longer contracts.

“We told them in February, so they can plan accordingly through the end of the semester in early May,” McFarland said. “What we then did, though, was identify teaching assignments and teaching needs and offered a different title of visiting professor … and offered that contract to 17 of them.”

The university’s students were promised $6 million per year and – for many years – the state fulfilled that 100 percent, McFarland said.

“Given the current stalemate, we are unhopeful that anything will happen,” McFarland said. “We are afraid the program will go away in its entirety.”

The money is generally dispersed through the university for students who are promised a certain amount of money from these grants, he said.

McFarland said this is the first time in 15 years the university was forced to take action like this.

State Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, said the actions by Aurora University are “just another excellent example of why we need to get past this impasse and get a budget.”

“I respect what Aurora University is doing and making hard choices,” Andersson said. “Unfortunately, the state is not making the hard choice of coming together and developing a real compromise so we can start funding higher education and other core services we have an obligation to provide. This is another example of the tragedy of not having a budget.”

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March 2, 2017 at 08:24AM

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AU lays off visiting lecturers to fund state grants for students

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