As a result of the budget impasse in Springfield, University of Illinois officials have already had to stall programs and they say they are concerned over the uncertainly of a new state spending plan and the proposed funding cuts still on the table.
U of I projects aimed at revamping the county's power grid as well as the installation of solar panels at the university's Electrical and Computer Engineering Building have been delayed. And without a state budget in place for the 2016 fiscal year, which starts July 1, the university's Champaign-based Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center will also have to temporarily close starting Tuesday.
As part of his 2016 budget plan, Rauner proposed slashing higher education by 31.5 percent. The budget approved by Democrats, but vetoed by Rauner sought to cut higher education by 8.6 percent.
"Stress levels are high, partly because the numbers that have been talked about are so large," U of I Urbana-Champaign Mathematics Department Chair and Professor Matthew Ando told The News-Gazette. "The impact on students and on our ability to teach courses would be pretty big if we had to absorb the kinds of cuts that are being talked about quickly. But there's so much uncertainty right now about what's going to happen."
Under an 8.6 percent cut to higher education spending, U of I would see a $57 million reduction in funding.
"That is a budget that we can live with, that we can adjust to," U of I President Timothy Killeen said of the Democrat-approved spending plan. "It's better than the other alternatives we've been looking at."
The only component of the legislative budget that Rauner did not veto involved funding for K-12 and early childhood education. Killeen said Rauner's approval of that public education budget bill, which includes spending increases compared to the current fiscal year, makes him optimistic for higher education funding.
"Higher education is part and parcel of the same need, to develop the great human capital for the state of Illinois," Killeen explained.