Many Illinois colleges and universities are looking at a worrisome summer without a state budget. They will have to “float” between the end of the state's budget year June 30 and when students return to campus in August.
Jim Applegate, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Higher Education, said for many it could be tight until tuition checks start arriving in late August.
“That is the stress point,” Applegate said. “Obviously when tuition dollars start to flow in, that gives a little more flexibility. But none of these institutions was built to operate solely on tuition dollars.”
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Applegate estimates tuition dollars pay for between 30 percent and just under 50 percent of school operations, depending on the institution.
Illinois State University spokesman Jay Groves said schools are in a delicate balancing act.
Universities need to rely on tuition dollars and tuition increases to keep up with costs, he said. But if tuition is too high, some students couldn’t afford to attend. That would mean fewer dollars for operations.
“We know that we cannot balance the cost of this university solely on the backs of students and their families that are paying tuition,” Groves said. “By the same token, we know we cannot cut our way to success.”
Western Illinois University has cut hundreds of jobs. Interim budget director Matt Bierman said the school is looking at “day-to-day choices” for spending.
WIU lowered tuition. “We knew our prices were too high,” Bierman said. “Our students were telling us that through lots of different ways.”
Bierman said lawmakers in Springfield are going to have to decide how to solve the state's funding problems.