IL Budget Impasse draws rise from Universities, higher college tuition

IL Budget Impasse draws rise from Universities, higher college tuition
Letter from public universities of Illinois to State Lawmakers (Source: SIU)
Letter from public universities of Illinois to State Lawmakers (Source: SIU)

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - Students at Southeastern Illinois College will face a hike in tuition this year, which college leaders blame on the ongoing budget stalemate in Illinois.

Roughly 40 percent of Southeastern Illinois College's Budget is composed of state money that it has not been receiving for the duration of the stalemate, according to college president Jonah Rice.

"Imagine, if your boss said to you that much of your take-home paycheck wasn't going to make it to you," Rice said. "This is really putting a strain on us, and we need to do something to stay in the black."

SIC is not alone.

Southern Illinois University and eight other state-funded universities sent a letter to Springfield this week explaining that the impasse is doing irreparable damage to higher education in Illinois.

"In the next few months, a number of public universities and community colleges across the state will no longer be financially viable," the letter reads. "When colleges and universities reach this point of no return- when bills cannot be paid and payroll cannot be met- they will close."

"No. SIU is not on the brink of closure, despite the reports that a number of public universities are," SIU Director of Government and Public Affairs John Charles said. "We don't know of a point that we would run out of funds, but the longer this goes, the more challenging it becomes."

The letter states "...if a state budget is not approved in the very near future, public higher education will be damaged beyond repair."

SIC tuition will rise slightly more than %6 at an average of $5 per credit hour, a Technology fee of $2 will be added, and the Early College fee will be raised by $2.

"We're doing everything we can to introduce a mosaic of changes that will lessen the impact of the lack of state funds, without adversely affecting any one area or program," Rice said. "Unfortunately, these changes will mean perhaps a moderate impact on how long it takes certain students to graduate.".

"Prolonging your education is not very good," SIC student Terri Winters said. "I struggle to make ends meet, and work a full time job. I struggle to even get up here. I understand why the school needs to do this, but if there's anything to be done in Springfield, I wish it would happen."

The handful of layoffs planned will begin at SIC as soon as mid-term of Spring 2016 semester, and the new fees and class prices will start in summer.

The Adult Education program, including the early school leavers program and the GED program, will be reduced greatly at mid-term and includes three layoff notices.

A re-evaluation of the program's funding status will be conducted this summer to determine what level of activity will be possible for the Fall 2016 semester.

"The state has failed to provide funding for these very valuable programs," Vice President Dr. Dana Keating said.

The college also reduced an administrative position at the Carmi Center and reduced hours of operation there.

Some part-time and contractual staff had hours reduced.

Rice emphasized that SIC will maintain operations but will continue to re-engineer and react to the bad news from the state capitol.

"It's time.  It's time to be statesmen and get this settled for the students, for they are the ones who will suffer in the end," Rice said. "Let's get a budget and work together on any differences to end this now."

Download the KFVS News app: iPhone | Android

Copyright 2016 KFVS. All rights reserved.