Western Illinois University officials are looking at new ways to keep the doors open while there’s no state budget in place. President Jack Thomas said in the press conference that the university has to change the way it’s funded.
This new plan announced Wednesday focuses on developing partnerships with local businesses for funding since they’ve received less than half of their state funding since 2015.
President Thomas said they are dedicating a full time employee to developing those relationships and finding ways to fund the university while relying less on state funding during the budget impasse.
“We have been cut to the bare bone,” Thomas said. “We can’t continue to do things as we have been. We are going to try to raise funds other ways and offset some of the costs. We have to act more like a private institution when you do not getting funding from the state.”
117 families are unsure about their future at Western Illinois University, as university officials wait to renew their contracts. All part of the school’s efforts to trim costs as they try to keep the doors open through the state budget impasse.
Christina Norton has worked at the WIU library for over 2 years. Now she’s unsure if she’ll have a job come August.
“It’s my understanding that it means that they don’t know yet if I have a job, so they can’t give me the piece of paper that says I have a job,” Norton said.
She’s 1 of 117 other educators that the university is putting in limbo right now, waiting for the state budget impasse to end before giving them a new contract.
“Those contracts for the unit B, they are non-tenured faculty. they are still delayed,” Thomas added. “We are just very hopeful that the state will come through with a budget by June 30th or soon there after.”
But Norton said an uncertain future has taken a toll on her family that has already gone through tragedy in the last few months.
“I was going to start sending money back home to my mom because my step-father died in April and she seems to need a little money, but now I can’t because I don’t know if I will have a job,” Norton said.
Senator Jil Tracy said shes hopeful a deal can be struck soon.
“Myself and my colleagues stand ready to go back to Springfield, and I think we will be there before the end of the month.”
But just going back to Springfield doesn’t mean they’re any closer to reaching a deal. Tracy says she feels confident that the senate is close, but any deal would still need house approval, and a signature from Governor Bruce Rauner.
Until that happens, Christina Norton and dozens of other will have to wait, or find another job.
“I’d prefer to have another library job, but depending how long it takes me to get one of those I might look for something else,” Norton said. “I really don’t know.”
President Thomas said they do have contingencies if the state doesn’t approve a budget by July, but he didn’t say if those plans would mean laying off those 117 people waiting for contract renewals.