*This editorial originally was printed in the Monday Feb. 15 edition of The Daily Eastern News
Problems in higher education in Illinois continue as the state entered its eighth month without a budget at the beginning of February.
The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation agency that oversees Illinois public colleges and universities, asked the schools to provide emergency plans explaining how they will help students continue their education elsewhere if the budget impasse forces a school closure, according to article in the Chicago Tribune.
This was a message sent to all 57 public universities in the state, including Eastern. Accreditation is essential and imperative to a college and university.
Without it, students cannot get federal financial aid and could have their credit hours rejected at other colleges and universities. It is a scary thought to think that this is what budget impasse has led to schools in higher education to.
The Tribune article also said schools have until Thursday to provide financial and enrollment information, cuts in faculty and staff, and the expectations for fall enrollment.
In the Wednesday edition of The Daily Eastern News, the article titled, “Glassman says accreditation is solid, no worries,” said just that.
Eastern President David Glassman said, “Our accreditation is solid and we do not have anything to worry about concerning Eastern’s academic excellence and meeting accreditation standards.”
Glassman also said the university will make any necessary changes to continue through the fiscal year, and will use money from tuition and cash reserves to continue operation until the Eastern receives appropriations from the state.
While this is good news for students to continue their education at Eastern, adjustments for the university to continue operation have already been made.
The adjustments include, “[reduction in] university expenses by delaying non-instructional purchases, freezing the hiring of employees, limiting travel, delaying capital projects, and if necessary, instituting layoffs of non-instructional employees and requiring furlough days for administration and professional category employees,” Glassman said in The News article.
Layoffs already took place over the summer, and on Wednesday and Thursday, 198 layoff notices were sent to different areas of civil service personal.
It’s great that Eastern can continue to stay to provide education to students, but the budget impasse has gone on long enough and should not have led to the additional layoff of civil service personal.
Glassman is making the necessary adjustments to continue operation to help us, so do not blame him for the problems affecting Eastern. He is helping the university continue during these difficult times without a state budget.
Friday Feb. 5 saw the support of hundreds of people from students, faculty and staff, and residents of Charleston on the Library Quad for the Fund EIU.
The message has been heard as coverage of Fund EIU has spread around the country. The message should not stop at the Fund EIU rally.
It should continue in the upcoming weeks to let Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly know that the budget impasse affects more than just students, faculty and staff. It also affects the community in which the school resides in.
Other colleges and universities in the state are also holding rallies to draw attention to effects of the budget impasse.
The Northern Star of Northern Illinois University said Northern, Kishwaukee College and local community leaders held a unity rally Thursday for the budget impasse.
The Chicago Tribune reported that on Feb. 8, students and faculty of Chicago State University rallied to protest the budget impasse. Chicago State faces closure in March after running out reserved funds.
Schools across the state are working together to organize an assembling of students at Springfield for Wednesday.
According to the “Fight for Higher Ed Funding” Facebook event, the gathering is to pressure lawmakers in ending the budget stalemate before universities start closing.
Let’s take the momentum we have, and show support for the event. Plan to go if you can attend.
If you cannot attend, you can still help. Contact your state representatives by calling, emailing or sending a letter.
Accreditation may be OK for Eastern, but the problem can affect other colleges and universities in the state.
Illinois lawmakers have heard us. Let’s continue to be heard and show support for other schools in the state.
The daily editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial board of The Daily Eastern News