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Colleges, universities in Illinois eye budget cuts amid pandemic uncertainty

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Friday, May 15, 2020  |  Article  |  By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

Budget--State (8) , Education--Higher (37)

(The Center Square) – Colleges and universities in Illinois will have to make difficult decisions for the upcoming budget year amid uncertainty.

Revenues have plummeted because of the coronavirus, so some schools are looking at making budget cuts of up to 20 percent.

Northwestern University recently announced a series of staff and budget cuts as the school braces for a budget shortfall of about $90 million for the fiscal year. About 250 staff members will be temporarily furloughed, and university leaders will take a 20 percent pay cut.

Some schools may not survive the pandemic. McMurray College in Jacksonville is closing permanently after 174 years.

Illinois State University President Larry Dietz has asked department heads to prepare budget scenarios with 10 percent and 20 percent reductions compared with the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Eric Jome, director of media relations at ISU, said the school went through a similar situation just a few years ago.

“These are actually very similar to the same kind of budget planning scenarios we had to look at a couple of years ago during the state budget impasse of 2015 through 2017,” Jome said.

Dietz wrote in his email that, because of the pandemic, ISU refunded about $20 million in housing dining and student fees to students. The university also absorbed unexpected costs and lost revenue from canceled campus events.

Jome said despite the shortfall and the uncertainty of state appropriations, ISU is in good shape.

“We feel like we're going into this in the best shape that we can be, even though we know this is going to be very impactful financially,” Jome said.