University copes with state budget impasse

By Christin Watkins

University President Timothy Killeen asked the University community to “pretend we are looking into a future with a state higher education budget,” at a town hall meeting on Monday Nov. 16.

The continued lack of funding from the state for higher education has become a running joke among the administration, one method among many the University has tried to cope with this unprecedented fiscal year.

From the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences asking each unit to cut five percent of their budget, to thousands of students at risk of losing their Monetary Award Program grants, 2015 has become the year for budget cuts at the University of IllinoisRB.

“As they say, we’re cutting into muscle, the fat is gone,” said David Tewksbury, head professor of communication.

Students feel the effects of these cuts every day in the classroom and the continuation of these cuts will lead to larger class sizes and fewer resources for students.

“Every cut hurts,” he said. “Life for the students in that department gets a little bit worse every time.”

Students went to the state capital in October, hoping to make legislators aware of the negative impact the state’s proposed 31.5 percent cut on higher education would have.

The “Cuts Mean Us” campaign initiated by the Illinois Student Senate aimed to place pressure on state representatives to fund higher education.

“College education provides people for the capacity and the ability to get a job that is going to contribute to Illinois’ economy,” said Matt Hill, former ISS Vice President-External. “That’s something we really want to push — that this isn’t just sending kids to school, this is something that is really impacting the lives of people and impacting the quality of our state, improving the quality of our state.”

Killeen agreed that the University is an asset to the state of Illinois and should be a funding priority.

“We see the University as a profit-center for the state, not as a cost-center,” Killeen said.

He hopes the state will recognize the importance of higher education to the future and will show this through financial support.

“I am optimistic that the impasse will get resolved in the January timeframe,” Killeen said. “The state of Illinois needs us to be world-class, and we cannot go down a path to deterioration.”

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