Ongoing budget stalemate threatens Chicago State University's future

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago State University is feeling more fallout from the budget fight in Springfield. The stalemate has cut off funds for the school and students and faculty worry about the university's future.

In the midst of the fiscal crisis and questions about Chicago State's future, students this past week were able to register for summer and fall classes that may or may not happen.

CSU freshman Sierra Nixon is among the students who pre-registered, but she has prepared herself if the university does not re-open in the fall.

"Really, I'm just going with the flow, really. Whenever I know I'll start looking for other schools but right now, I'm just going to stay here," Nixon says.

"Right now, they told us not to worry," says Jennifer Leja, CSU student.

Leja and Florence Petino are post-graduate pharmacy students who try not to worry:

"It's not that we're pretending that nothing's happening. It's that we're still continuing on with our lives and not going to pause our education," Petino says.

CSU, where spring break was cancelled to hurry up the semester, still plans massive layoffs on April 30.

With state lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner still locked in a stalemate over the budget, all public colleges and universities have received no state aid since summer 2015. Lesser-endowed CSU is in the worst financial shape.

Petino worries that staff reductions and other cuts could threaten the university's accreditation.

"That's what validates us as being pharmacy students and that validates our degree from when we graduate," she says.

And second-year pharmacy student Kanwal Singh is already $60,000 in debt and worried about his upcoming third and final year:

"That would be like putting my future into jeopardy. I've already invested two years and I'm working hard for it," Singh says.

There is not yet information on how the fiscal crisis might affected projected CSU enrollment. A professor who wished to remain anonymous noted that the state of Illinois is currently funding its prison system, but not funding its colleges and universities.
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