Students and faculty joined union staff members in protests at the University of Illinois- Chicago and at University of Illinois- Champaign on Thursday. At UIC, 20 non-classroom staffers have been cut and others have had their pay reduced.
"We've been informed that this is the first of two or three rounds of layoffs this spring, and this is the smallest," said Joe Iosbacher, UIC office support specialist.
Union leaders said the job cuts and teacher furloughs are unnecessary and the University of Illinois has sufficient cash reserves and borrowing power.
Meanwhile, U of I said it has no choice because the state is half a billion dollars late in payments to the university-- and that translates into a sizable hike in tuition for incoming freshmen next fall. Administration officials project the hike will be at least 9-percent, but will more likely be in the range of 12 to15 percent.
"Without help, you can't do it. I have the help of my parents, but it you don't have the help of parents, there's no way," said Krupa Desai, UIC junior.
Krupa Desai is a criminal justice major who is paying roughly $9,000 a year in tuition at UIC. This year's freshmen are paying around $13,500. Next fall it may go over 15.
While escalating costs are a regular part of the college landscape, there's considerable distress that costs look to be going up dramatically at the state's tax-supported flagship university and its three campuses. Some students wonder what's fair about costs going up when teacher furloughs are lessoning instruction time?
"Am I expected to continue to work hard and pay more money when you're giving me less time in class? So you're taking away from me the more work I do," said Courtney Johnson, UIC sophomore.
Stanley Ikenberry, the University of Illinois' interim president says that tuition and fees - for the first time - now account for more of the university's funding than state aid.
The decision on the size of the tuition hike will likely be determined sometime in May. Most college shopping students have locked in their choices by then.