The presidents of nine Illinois universities are pressing Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators to end the ongoing fiscal battle that has left the state without a budget since July 1.
The school stewards sent a letter to the governor and state lawmakers detailing the negative impact of the lack of a budget, namely uncertainty about how much money the schools will receive from the Illinois government and when the funds would be received. The letter goes on to state that the financial limbo is beginning to affect research as well as their respective teaching environments:
Requiring the public universities to operate without a budget appropriation is unsustainable. The uncertainty of not knowing when, or at what level, appropriations will be forthcoming is resulting in some students and faculty questioning whether Illinois is the best place to learn or to teach. Students and families are alarmed about the possibility that financial aid and services will not be available. In addition, we are deeply concerned about losing the reputational excellence and the important grant funds that support both students and the Illinois economy.
The impasse casts a shadow of uncertainty over the campuses. We are on the brink of serious operational damage. Mid-term exams are not far off, and so too are decisions that must be made about staffing, academic offerings and student services for the spring semester.
Although the universities we lead have different mixes of resources depending on our respective missions, we all have a crucial reliance on state appropriations to deliver affordable, high-quality education to hundreds of thousands of Illinois students. The appropriation is a fundamental tenet of the partnership between the state and public universities.
The president of the University of Illinois informed his campus community of the financial issues facing Illinois' public higher education system due to the budget impasse.
"Collectively, our state's public universities are large-scale incubators of the highly skilled workforce and groundbreaking innovation that are central to prosperity and economic growth in the 21st century," wrote University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen in a mass email sent to the university Wednesday informing the school community of the letter sent to state officials Thursday. "But the funding lapse poses threats for both the current academic year and for our future."
Presidents from Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, the University of Illinois and Western Illinois University signed off on the joint letter. They closed the letter with a request that the governor and Illinois lawmakers "act on a fiscal 2016 budget that provides public universities with a responsible, sustained and predictable level of support that would ensure all of our students can continue to progress academically" and a passive request to meet with state leaders in the near future.
A copy of the letter can be seen here.