Universities suffer recession

By Paolo Cisneros

Media coverage has been devoted mainly to job losses, corporate failures and a free-falling stock market, but all across the country, universities are feeling the pinch of an economy in recession.

“The financial crisis is affecting everyone’s pocket book,” said Candace Mueller, assistant director of external relations for the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “So of course it’s affecting students who pay for their tuition and textbooks just like it’s affecting universities who pay for everything that goes into running them.”

In Illinois, high school students can expect to see tuition rates at public universities continue to rise while, in all corners of the United States, colleges and universities are struggling to come to terms with the worst economic recession in decades.

The situation in Illinois is compounded by a state government that has done relatively little to increase funding for higher education in recent years, said Illinois Senate Republican spokeswoman Patty Schuh.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I think the most devastating thing to university budgets at this point is the Blagojevich administration,” she said. “It hasn’t placed much of a priority on higher education unfortunately.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones who agree with her. State Sen. Edward Maloney, D-18, said the governor was responsible for recently retracting a 3 percent increase to higher education that was passed by the General Assembly in time to make this year’s budget.

On his part, Maloney said he believes the move will prove detrimental to the state by robbing it of future college graduates whom he said typically go on to make more money, consume more and often contribute more to their communities.

“(The Blagojevich administration) doesn’t realize the investment component of higher education,” he said. “I think they’re short-sighted.”

State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-3, agreed that funding for higher education in the state and across the country is in need of help.

“I certainly hope President-elect Obama can give the education system a shot in the arm not only with dollars but also with incentives to encourage different states to hold costs down,” she said.

In the meantime, residents should expect tuition at state universities to rise on an annual basis, said Jay Bergman, member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He added that the country’s economic crisis will hit state universities hard.

“There’s going to be some layoffs, there’s going to be some jobs not filled and there’s going to be some general belt-tightening,” he said. “Unfortunately, the state is in a precarious financial state right now and just doesn’t have the money.”

Of course, Illinois isn’t the only state with budgeting concerns.

At Indiana University, budget director Stephen Keucher said his institution is working diligently to monitor the state’s financial situation as a precautionary measure.

The University is also asking campus administrators to create plans for responding to possible revenue shortfalls, he said.

In Illinois, the situation may be bad, but Maloney said he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. When the General Assembly reconvenes in January, state Sen. John Cullerton, D-6, will take the place of retiring Senate President Emil Jones, D-14, and Maloney said he sees relations between the General Assembly’s two houses and the governor’s mansion improving under Cullerton’s leadership.

Still, the situation for higher education in Illinois and throughout the country remains dire.

“If the state were to place more of an emphasis on higher education, I think we would have an easier time attracting the best and brightest in terms of students and faculty,” Schuh said. “It needs to be the priority it once was.”