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Campus cuts: 50 ways the state budget impasse impacts the University

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Campus cuts: 50 ways the state budget impasse impacts the University

By Megan Jones, Staff writer

Patricia Rodriguez is a first-generation student from a working class family in Belvidere, Illinois. She sophomore studying political science and is a student senator.

But, she wouldn’t be an Illini if it wasn’t for the MAP grant she received.

Along with working each summer to save up money, the state-funded Monetary Award Program, MAP, grant allowed her to afford to attend. She estimates to leave with $30,000 to $40,000 in loans.

The state has covered fall semester’s grants, but the University is currently crediting students’ accounts for spring semester. Not all public institutions across the state have been able to do this, leaving several students to not return for the spring semester.

“It’s almost criminal that somebody can deprive so many people of what keeps them going during their everyday lives but face no punishment whatsoever,” she said. “It doesn’t just affect me, it affects social services and all kinds of institutions and nobody is being held accountable.”

***

The scrapyard at North Cunningham Avenue in Urbana could receive $15 million of equipment of what once made up an innovative research lab — the Illinois Simulator Lab.

Hank Kaczmarski, director of the lab, has been working at the University for 41 years and said he, along with six full-time employees will be out of a job in November when the lab shuts down.

“We’re shell-shocked, of course, but we’re a research lab and we have professors with projects that are funded by the federal government that have been ongoing for several years,” he said. “They’re just freaking out as to how these projects are going to be completed.”

He said students receive their first experience running human subject-based labs, studying cognitive science, perceptual psychology and kinesiology.

“Professors that want a research facility unique in the world are no longer going to have this anymore, so they are going to go to Caltech or MIT rather than come here to start their professional careers,” he said.

No one else in the world has a lab as unique as this, he said, and no one else knows how to use it, so it will be scrapped.

“This is just a huge waste of resources on behalf of the state.”

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While faculty enjoy the intellectual community at the University, the stress of not having a budget is too much for some.

Brett Ashley Kaplan, director of the program in Jewish Culture and Society, said the budget cuts have hurt staff morale the most.

“The fact that there’s no raises, there is no merit raises,” she said. “We work really, really hard. We work late at night, we work on the weekends. And there is no positive outcome anymore to all that we do.”

She said it has also impacted the program’s ability to host many events on campus, as they’ve had to scale back amenities offered and some are not willing to come at a reduced price.

For example, the program had to cut hosting a reception for a speaker they are bringing to campus next spring.

“That may seem like an unimportant thing, but it shows that you are delighted that this distinguished visitor has come, it could be an opportunity for community members, faculty and staff to all greet this visitor,” Kaplan said.

***

The University is less than 60 days away from going an entire year without receiving funding from the state. This is unprecedented.

The state funded about $236 million of the University’s 2015 budget.

Lawmakers are currently considering another measure to give $453 million for Illinois colleges. The additional funds would give higher education institutions 60 percent of what they should have received for fiscal year 2016.

This has impacted the entire campus, from faculty to students, in several trickle-down ways.

Competing institutions are targeting the University’s best faculty with attractive, comprehensive offers.

“They are targeting us, citing the fiscal condition of the state as a whole,” Campus Spokesperson Robin Kaler said. “We are losing people across the breadth of our disciplines.”

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said the Provost’s Office is working on creating a new budget model for the University with the Campus Budget Advisory Task Force and they are preparing scenarios for different reductions.

Alex Villanueva, Illinois Student Senate Vice President-External, said budget cuts hurt, but sometimes they are needed.

“A responsible budget is better than no budget,” he said.

 

  1. Faculty retention is struggling as many academics are moving to different universities with more promising funding. The number of retention cases is up more than 40 percent over the last two years, meaning more professors are leaving.
  2. Resignations of tenure faculty are up by over 75 percent over the last two years. This is in response to competing offers from other institutions.
  3. Without employing competitive faculty members, students miss out on educational opportunities of learning from the best.
  4. Even with faculty hirings from 2013 to 2015, the campus-wide student-to-faculty ratio for undergraduate students has grown from 15.1 in 2007 to 18 in 2016.
  5. More than 150 staff positions have been eliminated from July 1 to March 16.
  6. Student’s Monetary Awards Program, MAP, Grants continue to be threatened. University students were awarded over $12 million in MAP Grants in August, but many were left uncertain if the state would cover their grants.

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    Patricia Rodriguez, sophomore in LAS, says she would not be able to attend the University had it not been for the MAP grant she received.

  7. The University hopes the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, ISAC, will refund the University, but warned students that they might have to pay the grants back.
  8. Incoming students who are currently working on their financial aid packages are being told about the predicament. Award letters warned students that if funding for MAP grants or any other financial aid is reduced, the grants would be reduced or rescinded. ISAC has instructed colleges to include MAP grants for the 2016-2017 school year in financial aid packages of eligible students.
  9. The state’s stop-gap funding, which provided $600 million to aid nine universities, paid off one semester’s worth of MAP grants. The funding provided 45 percent of a full year’s worth of MAP grants. The University hopes to receive funding for the spring semester.
  10. Some students from other universities in Illinois couldn’t return to school due to the concern they may have to pay back MAP grants. According to a Washington Post article, 1,000 low-income students from the state were unable to return to school.
  11. With less financial aid available, it is harder for low-income students to be able to enroll into universities in Illinois.
  12. Nearly $24 million of administrative costs were cut across campus.
  13. The Beckman Institute, an interdisciplinary research institute, has cut its budget by 9 percent. The research covers many different departments and keeps the University as a leader in research and development.

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    A photo of the driving simulator at the Illinois Simulator Laboratory located at Goodwin Avenue and Hazelwood Drive in Urbana.

  14. The Illinois Simulator Lab, a part of Beckman, will be shut down in November due to a lack of funding.
  15. The lab’s six full-time employees will no longer have jobs and professor’s with long-term federally-funded projects at the lab have nowhere to continue their work.
  16. Civil service employees may face layoffs in August due to the lack of a budget and lack of uncertainty about the status and timing of FY 2017’s appropriation.
  17. Civil service employees are currently going through an employment elimination period, called bumping, to match employees in eliminated positions with current job openings on campus.
  18. The University temporarily suspended funding for fall 2016 first-year discovery program courses. The program helps enhance first-year students’ experience by increasing interaction with faculty in small classes.
  19. Academic departments may have reduced some course offerings for the fall semester, but campus-wide information on that is not available.
  20. For smaller departments in the College of LAS, department heads estimated one-third of teaching assistants have been cut.
  21. This places additional work on the faculty.
  22. This cut also provides fewer funding opportunities for graduate students.
  23. Without TAs, there is less help for undergraduate students in their courses.
  24. The budget cuts also affect department’s abilities to fund travel support for faculty and graduate students.
  25. Some graduate students had state-supported research projects that were left unfunded.
  26. With budgetary uncertainty, it has created low morale for staff members in departments.
  27. In July 2015, all raises across-the-board were put on hold until the budget crisis is resolved.
  28. The campus also implemented a hiring freeze in July which was estimated to save nearly $7 million.
  29. Several campus improvement projects are suspended or have reduced funding, including capital projects.
  30. In October, the University announced eliminating an $11 million account for deferred maintenance projects across all three campuses.
  31. Buildings and equipment are not being maintained or repaired.

    Altgeld Hall renovations is one of several campus improvement projects that has been suspended. In 2014, colleagues presented a $90 million proposal to improve accessibility and modernize the building.

  32. Energy conservation projects are not being carried out.
  33. The Electrical and Computer Engineering building was created to be a net-zero facility, but the solar panels to be installed for the roof are currently sitting in storage due to funding cuts.
  34. The state is delayed in paying medical centers back for medical expenses covered under the state’s self-funded health care plan. Many employees are being asked to pay for large medical procedures upfront.
  35. This led some employees to decline receiving necessary procedures and checkups because they won’t be paid back in a reasonable amount of time.
  36. The same problem for employees and their families has existed with dental coverage for longer, and two nearby dental practices have closed in recent months due to being in debt from the state.
  37. The Counseling Center isn’t directly affected because they receive funding from the Student Health Fee each student pays. However, students aren’t able to see the counselors on a long-term basis and must be referred to other community organizations which are facing cuts.
  38. The Rape, Advocacy, Counseling and Education Services had to lay off employees and reduce services. The center has remained open thanks to donations from community members.
  39. Students may fear attending a university facing budget cuts and an uncertain future of the state’s budget. One could receive a better financial aid package from an out-of-state university.
  40. Departments have cut down the amount of events they can host each year and the amenities offered at events.
  41. The campus has increased integration of IT services and support on campus, reducing any duplications.
  42. The campus eliminated a central account where money was set aside to cover the cost of the IT operating system, used for student accounts, human resources and business functions. In fiscal year 2015, $12.8 million was dedicated to the account, but instead the money was used to mitigate the funding cuts.
  43. Illinois International Programs, Graduate College and other programs are consolidating programs and aligning its strategic missions.
  44. Plant Biology greenhouses used to have eight plant collections, but the greenhouse has reduced to five due to cuts. The manager also said they used to grow plants for around 15 classes, but now are down to four.
  45. Decreases in faculty funding reduces the amount of research funding and creates problems with collaborations between the University and the private sector, such as the work done in Research Park.
  46. Campus planning for FY 2017 calls for academic units to plan three different reduction scenarios: a 3, 5 and 7 percent reduction. Administrative units are planning for 5, 7 and 9 percent reduction scenarios.
  47. Budget plans for each scenarios were due at the end of March, the plan was reviewed in April and a campus budget plan will be developed in May. While across the board reductions are not envisioned, the scenarios will serve as proposals for both areas to reduce and invest.
  48. Units are also developing plans to adjust to 12.5 percent and 25 percent cash recessions to deal with a potential severe revenue shortfall, if the University was to receive no or severely reduced appropriations.
  49. All units have been advised to request investment funds where they see revenue growth opportunities.
  50. Moody’s Investor Service, a service that rates organizations such as countries, universities and states, reported the lack of a state budget makes the University’s future outlook as negative.

Have you been impacted by the state budget cuts? We will continue to update this list until a state budget has been passed. Please email [email protected].

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