Tough Times for Higher Education

Springfield, IL – It's been a tough year financially for Illinois' public colleges and universities - and it could get even worse in the months ahead.

Schools still do not know when money promised for this fiscal year will eventually show up. In addition, they don't know how much will be available in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Illinois Board of Higher Education Chairman Carrie Hightman says instead of asking for one specific amount, the IBHE is making a budget request on behalf of all the colleges and universities. She says it offers a range of funding levels, thus giving the legislature a choice.

"We're trying to recognize the tough economic situation of the state. But yet, we know that by investing in higher education we are making an investment that will improve the economic situation," says Hightman.

Hightman admits the state's problems could leave colleges and universities with much less than they're hoping for. She says she's taking nothing for granted when it comes to the next budget.

"I can't believe the legislature would be foolish enough to not get it from the hand to the mouth, but who knows," says Hightman. "So we have to operate under the assumption we have to be vocal and be clear about the need. I worry what will happen if the money doesn't come in."

Federal stimulus money was a huge help to higher education in the current year. But that money won't be around next time and Hightman says the state would need to kick in about 6% more simply to make up for the loss.

That could be a tall order in the current financial landscape. In fact, Governor Pat Quinn has asked state agencies to cut their budget requests.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio