After ten months without a budget, Illinois lawmakers approved $600 million to keep state colleges and universities open through the summer.
The bill stalled in the Illinois House Thursday evening, but it passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate Friday morning with bipartisan support, the Chicago Tribune reported. For the rest of the year, universities will split $356 million, while community colleges will split $74 million. An additional $170 million will go to scholarships for low-income students.
Compared to the budget Democrats proposed last May, the new funding amounts to a 70 percent cut. But even so, the funding will allow institutions to keep their doors open. Over the last few months, Illinois colleges laid off hundreds of staff members.
Chicago State University, one of the institutions hit the hardest, sent potential layoff notices to all its employees and moved up the end of the school year. It was scheduled to close at the end of April. Under the new bill, Chicago State gets $20 million -- a proportionately larger amount compared to other institutions. But even with the extra funding, Chicago State announced Friday that it will still need to make difficult cost-cutting decisions -- including more layoffs. “The amount provided is insufficient in solving the broader crisis the budget impasse has created,” the university wrote in a statement.
University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen echoed Chicago State’s comments, arguing that the $180 million allocated to the university -- compared to the $647 million it received in 2015 -- won’t be enough. “The U of I may be forced to make additional significant reductions in faculty, staff, academic offerings, student programs, economic development initiatives and public service if it does not receive more than the 27.8 percent of last year’s appropriation that is provided in the stopgap bill,” Killeen wrote in a statement.
A plan has finally emerged to provide some financial relief for public colleges and universities in Illinois, which have been operating without state funds since last summer, but it has stalled, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Legislators and the governor remain deadlocked on the state budget. But a plan that briefly appeared to have momentum Thursday (and that some hope could gather support today) would provide $356 million to four-year colleges and $74 million to community colleges. Those funding levels, coming 10 months after state funds should have started to flow, still would represent deep cuts compared to a normal year. But many colleges say that they need something to avoid layoffs and program shutdowns. Proportionately more money would be provided under the plan to Chicago State University, which many fear is on the verge of closure. On Thursday, legislators spoke of endorsing this possible compromise, but then held off amid questions about other state needs that have not been funded.
Conference realignments and mammoth television deals have been portrayed as ways for universities to pay for major athletic programs. But an analysis released by USA Today Sunday afternoon shows that revenue gains are outpaced by increased spending. During 2015, total revenue for the 50 public universities in the Power Five conferences increased by $304 million. But the analysis found that spending increased by $332 million.
The University of California at Berkeley plans to eliminate 500 nonfaculty staff jobs over the next two years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. That would decrease the number of staff positions by 6 percent. Officials hope to eliminate many of the positions through attrition, but some layoffs are also reportedly taking place. In February, the university announced a strategic planning process to deal with projected long-term budget deficits.
Harvard and Princeton Universities have released their responses to questions from members of Congress about the way they use their endowments. The questions come amid heightened scrutiny of the wealthiest universities. Both the Harvard and Princeton letters to Congress stress common themes, including the way their endowments are not general funds but collections of endowments donated for different purposes, and that the endowments directly support undergraduate student aid among many other purposes. A cover letter on Harvard's response, from President Drew Faust, said that her university's endowment should be viewed as 13,000 separate funds. Princeton's letter indicated that its endowment is made up of 4,300 separate accounts.
Harvard's endowment (at more than $36 billion) is the largest in the nation, and Princeton's (at nearly $23 billion) is the fourth, according to the latest data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin on Thursday ordered a 4.5 percent cut in the quarterly payments the state makes to public colleges and universities, The Courier-Journal reported. The governor says the state lacks enough money to continue present appropriations levels and wants a deeper cut for the next fiscal year.