State colleges and universities in Illinois have thus far seen 1,000 fewer students return for the second semester due to the budget impasse's impact on the Monetary Award Program, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Funding for MAP, the state's need-based grant program that helps low-income Illinois students pay for tuition, is caught up in the six-month-old budget battle.
Higher education appropriations have also been frozen during the budget standoff.
As a result, at least one local university could soon go broke.
"By March, we will be close to not having enough money to operate," Chicago State University spokesman Tom Wogan told the newspaper.
With 30 percent of the university's operatiing budget coming from the state, the school will be unable to pay its $5 million monthly payroll come March. Chicago State reportedly has about $9 million of cash on hand at the moment.
The university previously faced several inquiries, including state audits, over financial mismanagement, but a recent analysis found very few fiscal problems with the school, which serves a predominately African-American, low-income student body.
"A lot of our students are parents," said Paris Griffin, Chicago State University student government president. "We really don't have anywhere else to go."
Chicago Urban League leaders are blasting the Rauner administration over the potential closure of Chicago's South Side university, as seen by this statement by the organization's President and CEO Shari Runner:
At the Chicago Urban League, we know from nearly 100 years of work to strengthen the African American community that government budgets reflect government priorities. To that end, the state budget is far more than a long set of dollar figures on a piece of paper, it's a blueprint for providing adequate revenue for priorities and making wise investments that will serve us all in the future.
Right now, our legislators are failing us on all counts.
Delays in issuing a state budget are not that uncommon, despite the Illinois Constitution requiring state lawmakers to pass a budget by May of each year. However, the current budget impasse, lasting seven months, presents major issues for many institutions that depend on state funding.
Founded almost 150 years ago, Chicago State University (CSU) serves predominately African American students. With a majority of students on financial aid, CSU is a lifeline for students whose social and economic mobility are too often stifled. The looming closure of CSU reinforces unacceptable inequities in our schools and continues to shortchange children of color.
It is unacceptable that, under the threat of displacement, our African American youth have to carry the burden of indecision in Springfield. All the children of Illinois deserve a budget that invests in them and their future.
Following the back and forth during this budget cycle, one sometimes wonders if the students at Chicago State University - a significant part of our future workforce and leadership - are being used as pawns in a high-stakes prolonged political chess match between Governor Rauner, the General Assembly and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Chicago State University's reserve funds have been depleting every day for the past seven months. Its professors are doing their work each day. Students show up to do their work each day. Millions of taxpayers across the state contribute to Illinois' economy each day. Now it's the legislators' turn. They need to stop politicking and instead focus on working together to pass a state budget that reflects our state's values.
Chicago is at the breaking point. We can't allow one more failure in this city. In an effort to remediate this impact, we call on Governor Rauner and our Legislature to enact the following in order:
- Immediately approve a fiscally and civically responsible budget for Illinois;
- In the interim, provide stopgap funding which will assure that the students and faculty of CSU do not suffer while a final budget is being negotiated;
- And recommit to the worthy cause of sustaining the pipeline of public education - both k-12 and secondary - as a high priority for Chicago and the State of Illinois.
The legacy of this legislative session can be that divided leaders came together, put Illinois' future first and compromised to sustain its investment in education. Or it can be that political pride and brinksmanship won the day, while the dreams of our Black youth once again got deferred.
It is in the interest of every elected official whose service is temporary and determined, in large part, by the citizens of Chicago to immediately resolve this fiscal crisis.
Meanwhlie, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders remain at odds over a budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which began July 1.
Many state services and programs are being funded during the impasse in part through laws, court orders or federal dollars. However, various other programs as well as higher education institutions are going unfunded because the state is not authorized to spend money on them without a budget in place.