Illinois colleges, universities struggle during budget impasse

IL schools mulling layoffs, shutdowns due to budget stalemate

REND LAKE, IL (KFVS) - Illinois' public colleges and universities have gone eight months without state funding because legislators have failed to agree on a formal state budget.

Each of these academic institutions are faced with different financial challenges. Some had more extensive reserve funding than others.

On March 2, the John A. Logan College board of trustees voted to lay off 55 employees. The small community college in Southern Illinois employs 700 faculty and staff.

Chicago State University has announced it may close down at the end of its spring semester. CSU administrators made the decision to close two weeks early on April 28 to save money.

Rend Lake College in rural Jefferson County, Ill. has weathered the budget impasse so far without inducing large scale layoffs. Roughly 2,400 students are enrolled at the college. RLC has 187 full time employees and 323 part-time, 60 of which are students.

RLC President Terry Wilkerson said the college has been aware of the state's financial struggle for years and has worked to prepare for the impasse as best they could.

Forty percent or $9 million of Rend Lake College's nearly $20 million annual  budget comes from the state. To save money recent years, the college has restructuring administration and employee healthcare.

Wilkerson said the college is constantly looking at the courses it provides and how many students are enrolled. He said a tough decision was made to discontinue RLC's massage therapy program in the 2016 Fall semester because of a low interest.

RLC is parenting with other higher education institutions like Southeastern Illinois College and Shawnee Community College to share instructors to save money.

Many academic institutions have chosen to front the states portion of the need based Illinois Monetary Award Program, which provides as much as $5,000 to low-income students. RLC did not, saving the college $280,000 between the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016.

"We're doing a lot of great things in tough times," Wilkerson said.

Rend Lake College saw a decrease of enrollment by 8 percent since last fall. Wilkerson said the college is doing what it can to save money and guarantee programs vital to students in the rural community RLC serves.

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