Accreditation for Illinois universities could be at risk

President of the Higher Learning Commission writes letter to lawmakers talking about budget impasse concerns

Staff Report

Accreditation for Illinois state universities might be at risk, according to a letter sent to the governor and general assembly from the Higher Learning Commission.

In the letter, posted on Capitol Fax, HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley wrote to warn lawmakers about the accreditation consequences that could come from the lack of a state budget.

“The continued lack of such funding places the higher education system of Illinois at considerable risk and is injurious to the very students the system purports to serve,” she said in the letter.

The HLC has closely monitored Illinois universities for over two and a half years, and noted problems they have acquired because of the budget impasse.

These include increase tuition and fees; the loss of Monetary Award Program grant money; declining enrollment; faculty and staff losses; the elimination of academic programs and services; canceled capital projects and cuts to plant operations as well as depleted or diminished cash reserves and a loss of grant and charitable donation income.

Any higher education institution with these issues, regardless of cause, are still subject to HLC standards, according to the letter, addressed to Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, Illinois Senate Leader Christine Radogno and Illinois House Leader Jim Durkin.
If universities do not meet or are at risk of not meeting these standards, the HLC is “obligated to implement its system of sanctions and public information” to let the public know about the impact on educational quality.

This means some institutions could get their accreditation withdrawn.

Students attending institutions without a status with an accrediting agency recognized by the federal government cannot access federal financial aid.

Rauner called for a special session so legislators could work out a full budget before the fiscal year begins on July 1. If this does not happen, the state will go for its third year without a budget and public state universities, including Eastern, will have gone three years without federal funding.

“You have the power to stop this spiral of diminishing quality of higher education in Illinois and the resulting accreditation consequences,” Gellman-Danley wrote in the letter’s closing paragraph. “I urge you to act immediately to fund higher education in Illinois. You have the future of thousands of Illinois college students in your hands. Do what is needed to ensure that they have a strong education in Illinois.”

The News staff can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]