Illinois colleges facing enrollment challenges during state budget impasse

Illinois colleges facing enrollment challenges during state budget impasse

CARTERVILLE, IL (KFVS) - Colleges and universities in Illinois are facing unprecedented challenges as the state presses into an eighth month without a formal state budget.

A community college in Carterville, Illinois saw a more than 25 percent increase from the fall 2015 semester to the spring 2016 semester. The Director of College Relations at John A. Logan College (JALC), Steve O'Keefe, explained it's becoming more difficult than ever to operate since the college isn't receiving state funding.

"That's the biggest challenge we face," O'Keefe said. "You have to do more with less."

JALC has been forced to cut back on advertising while it focuses efforts on recruiting students from the 11 nearby public school districts, the College spokesman calls it a grassroots effort. He said the college is focusing on getting students to apply early. JALC has also taken advantage of social media to drive students to its website.

"It's baby steps," O'Keefe said. "We're moving on with what we got."

Meanwhile JALC is fronting the cost of the need based Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant -- that offers as much as nearly $5,000 to students for college. Some universities and colleges haven't had the funds to front that cost until the state pays up, pushing the bill onto students. O'Keefe said that JALC is reviewing the decision to front the MAP grant each semester.

"Every day that we don't have a budget it gets harder and harder," O'Keefe said.

Students will be less likely to take on a full load and more likely to enrolling in only one or two classes if their costs of college rises, O'Keefe said. He said many JALC students are working their way through school working part-time jobs. And increased costs may mean more hours at work instead of classes, O'Keefe said.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is focusing on recruitment and retention as usual. Enrollment at SIUC is down by more than 800 since last spring. Spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said many families are asking questions about the budget impasse.

"The real challenge that the state budget impasse is having is that it is making families that were considering their students to Illinois public universities go elsewhere," Goldsmith said.

"We're committed to academic programs and student services," she said.

Goldsmith said the university will continue to offer competitive academic programs and will stay focused on its mission.

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