The state’s 20-month-long budget impasse is continuing to have negative effects on universities and community colleges, forcing some to take drastic measures to continue operations, a new Moody’s report says.
In the past week, both Northeastern Illinois University and Governors State University have announced significant cuts and tuition hikes to make up for a lack of state funding.
Roughly 1,100 Northeastern employees will be furloughed as the university shuts down operations during its spring break beginning March 20. All university services including tutoring, computer labs, writing centers and the library will be unavailable to roughly 10,000 students until March 27, when classes resume.
The university says that, without adequate funding soon, it will be forced to implement additional furlough days at an unspecified time. This is the second furlough for the university in the past year. Additionally, Northeastern will terminate 300 student employees in the next week.
In 2016, Northeastern terminated 65 non-instructional staff and implemented a hiring and travel freeze, spending reductions and maintenance delays, which remain in effect, to prepare for the expected lack of funding.
“Northeastern is committed to doing everything it can to stay open and continue serving its highly diverse student body, many of whom are first-generation students,” interim President Richard Helldobler said in a statement. “Now more than ever, our elected officials in Springfield must recognize the operational and reputational damage done due to our financial starvation, the value and importance of public higher education and how our graduates contribute to a strong state economy.”
Currently, students are registering for summer and fall classes. Northeastern will hold its commencement ceremony in May as planned.
Last week, Governors State University’s board approved a 15 percent tuition increase effective next academic year and the elimination of 22 academic programs in what Pat Ormsby, board of trustees chair, called “difficult but necessary decisions.”
So far, the university has cut 35 programs and 62 staff positions in the past two years. Like Northeastern, Governors State says it will be forced to do more if it doesn’t receive funds from the state. However, closing the doors is not an option. “What the board did on Friday was to ensure the long-term health of the university,” said President Elaine Maimon. “Of course it’s heartbreaking, but if the state doesn’t support us, we don’t have a lot of choice.”
The board is scheduled to meet again in May, when it will consider additional program cuts and tuition hikes if a resolution is not reached.
Moody’s report projects college and university woes will be compounded by demographic challenges over the next 15 years, with the number of high school students expected to be 14 percent fewer in 2031-32.
Of current high school graduates in Illinois, a significant number choose to attend out-of-state universities. In 2014, the state had a net migration of nearly 17,000 high school graduates, the second-highest of any state in the country, according to the report.