News Local/State

State Budget Still Leaves Challenges For U Of I Trustees

UIC Student Center West in Chicago.

Student Center West at the University of Illinois Chicago campus, where university trustees met on Thursday, July 13. University of Illinois

The University of Illinois’ Chief Financial Officer says the state’s budget stalemate cost the university an estimated $600-700 million in cash.

CFO and Vice-President Walter Knorr, making his last presentation before retirement, also told trustees at their meeting Thursday in Chicago that the crisis hurt the U of I’s bond ratings.

And with continuing questions about pensions and future state spending, Trustee Don Edwards said he agreed with Knorr that the university’s financial problems are not over yet.

“What’s happened has not fixed our situation, it’s temporarily reprieved it,” said Edwards. “And it’s great that we have a budget. But we obviously have tremendous work to do, as a board and a system to address our future, with the state’s finances being what they are.”

Knorr told trustees that the new state budget provides the University of Illinois with $583 million in state funding for Fiscal Year 2018, which began on July 1. That’s a ten percent reduction from FY 2015, the last year that Illinois had a complete state budget.

The new budget also appropriates $300 million to cover university expenses in FY 2017. Combined with $350 million, which the university received in a so-called “bridge appropriation” earlier that year, the U of I stands to receive a total of $650 million to apply to FY 2017 expenses.

However, Knorr said chances appear slim that the U of I will receive all the state funding it would normally have received for FY 2016.  Higher education in Illinois only received about a half-year of state funding through a so-called stopgap budget during that period.

Knorr says the university is also set to receive funding for MAP (Monetary Award Program) grants: $64 million for FY 2017 and $66 million for FY 2018.

President Timothy Killeen told the trustees that the University of Illinois had gotten through a difficult period by all of its sectors working together. But he said there were several potential difficulties ahead, concerning state appropriations in coming years, possible changes to pension funding and reforms to state higher education in Illinois.

“So we’re going to stay focused, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to exceed expectations,” said Killeen.

Also at the meeting, trustees approved the appointments of several new administrators: including Danita Brown as vice chancellor for student affairs at the Urbana campus, J. Rex Tolliver as vice chancellor for student affairs at the Chicago campus, James D. Anderson as dean of the College of Education in Urbana and Wayne H. Giles as dean of the School of Public Health at Chicago.

Trustees also extended the contract of Chicago campus basketball coach Steve McClain by two years, through the 2020-21 season.