Budget woes force U of I to start furlough plan

January 6, 2010 4:44:43 AM PST
The University of Illinois says thousands of its employees will have to take furlough days. The university, which has campuses in Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield, needs to shave its budget by millions of dollars to make up for money it has not received from the state.

The furlough program will affect 11,000 employees. Everyone from the university president and faculty to football and basketball coaches will be forced to take unpaid days off.

The state owes the university $436 million. The furloughs only address a short-term budget problem. Tutition hikes and layoffs may be in cards for the future.

Empty classrooms may become a reality as higher education in Illinois is the latest victim of the state's budget crisis. Because the state is behind in paying it's bills, University of Illinois faculty and staff will return from winter break next week with the mandate to take four furlough days between February and May.

"Those who are in an upper group of administration will be taking 10 days over the coming five months," said Michael Tanner, UIC provost.

Those who make less than $30,000 a year, civil service employees and graduate assistants will be spared.

The furloughs are not likely to disrupt big classes, but Tanner says some small classes will be cancelled.

As for the long term, if state revenue continues to decline, Tanner says there may be some big changes in years to come.

"We are a state-assisted institution in many respects, and it's going to be hard for us to provide all the education we have been providing if we don't have state support," Tanner said.

University of Illinois officials say students can count on a tuition increase at all three of their campuses.

"Not again. I don't want tuition to be raised again. It's already difficult enough as it is. And if it gets raised more, that will put even more strain on people. And education is so important," said Melissa Rodriguez, student.

"Everyone should take a hit this point in time," said Sean Goretskie, student.

That is exactly what Governor Quinn says, that every state agency is affected.

Quinn says there may be some relief coming next week with money from a pension obligation note.

"We will be able to use a billion dollars of this note to pay down the bills owed by the State of Illinois," said Quinn.

Governor Quinn says short term borrowing at a very low interest rate would help pay the state's bills. But, his Democratic opponent for governor, Dan Hynes, who is the Illinois comptroller, says the state cannot borrow its way out of a fiscal mess.

Hynes and Republican candidates for governor blame Quinn for the lack of a concrete plan to solve the budget crisis.