News Local/State

IL Higher Ed Board Hands $17 Million To Struggling Schools


Three of the public universities hardest hit by the state budget crisis will split $17 million in emergency funding, according to the Chicago Tribune. The paper reports that the Illinois Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Wednesday to send the lifeline funding to Chicago State, Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois universities. 

The money comes from $20 million in funding given to the board to support schools that demonstrated they were in financial crisis. It represents about one month's payroll costs for each school, according to the paper. Under the agreement Western Illinois University in Macomb gets $8.4 million, Eastern Illinois University in Charleston receives about $5.6 million and Chicago State University gets around $3 million. The funding can only be used to pay down costs incurred this year. About $3 million is left after the contributions to the three universities. It'll go to the Illinois Community College Board in December.

One remaining question is how quickly the state can get the money into the hands of the cash-strapped schools. As the Tribune reports: 

Left unknown at this point, however, is how quickly any of the universities will see that money. Tom Cross, chair of the higher education board, said he had been in contact with Comptroller Leslie Munger's office to help prioritize these dispersals and wanted to try to seal the deal Wednesday, if possible.

The state is currently five months behind on paying its bills, though there is an emergency process to expedite funds in some situations. 

No state universities, including the University of Illinois, has received a full year's funding since the 2015 budget year. Some campuses have implemented hiring freezes, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures. 

Earlier this month, U of I trustees voted in favor of a proposal to fully fund the three campuses for five years in exchange for meeting certain benchmarks. Those include boosting financial aid, hitting minimum targets for in-state enrollment and limiting tuituion increases. 

U of I President Timothy Killeen has said the system has already cut more than $100 million from the budget over the past six years. While the state has provided roughly half of the funding needed for the year.