The Illinois Budget Impasse: A Focus on the USF Budget Issues
July 1 will mark the one-year anniversary that Illinois has not had a state budget, and the repercussions of being a budget-less state are now visible to us “Average Joes.” Universities across the state are laying off staff, even closing down. State parks are closing down indefinitely. Necessary programs for drug addicts and ex-convicts are shutting down simply due to this lack of funding. It’s beginning to get very real, very fast.
As the financial issues continue to worsen in Illinois, one has to wonder, “What about USF?” Even though the university is privately funded, what fallout can we expect from the budget crisis, if any? To get answers to these questions, Reporting Journalist Ashley Cady sat down with USF President Dr. Arvid Johnson.
According to Johnson, USF students have "nothing to worry about." He believes that Illinois will pay the university back the money from the Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant…Maybe not until the summer, but they will pay. The university has taken precautions to ensure that the school’s budget stays intact despite lack of funding such as halting departmental spending. “We made substantial reductions in our non-labor budgets, expense budgets across the university to plug the gap in our cash flow.” However, sources in administration and faculty have revealed that there will be faculty and staff layoffs taking place by the beginning of the new fiscal year in June.
Our sources were told this information at a Town Hall meeting held at the university on Wednesday, April 20. In order to get a better understanding and put all rumors to rest, Cady attempted to sit in on the meeting. However, she was immediately asked to leave and told the meeting was only for USF Faculty and Staff, though the meeting information online did not include this detail.
Backing up to Friday, April 8: the university held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Laverne and Dorothy Brown Science Hall. Some have questioned why the university is continuing on with the construction of the building, even if the university has the monetary donations for it. On this, Johnson stated, “Our science building is long overdue. We need a science center that’s up to what our students and faculty need. We’ve already delayed the science building many, many more years than we should have.”
A common misconception is that this new building is already 100% paid for: that is not true. The science building has been fundraised for and has had money donated towards it, yet the school took out loans and will continue to fundraise in order to completely pay for it.
Johnson stated that students should not worry too much about the university’s financial situation.
“The university’s financial situation is actually as strong as it has been in many, many years.” He also suggested that if students are worried about future MAP Grant funding, the best they can do is spread the word. “The single best thing they [can] do is convince not just themselves but their parents and the friends of their parents to be contacting their legislators.”
*Thank you, Ashley Cady, for sitting down with Dr. Johnson.