Governor's State University is located about 35 miles southwest of Chicago and it's one of Illinois' smaller public universities. But this year its enrollment went up considerably, in large part because last year the university transitioned from being an upper division school–meaning it started at the junior year level–to now include freshmen and sophomores.
But just as the university has taken on many new students, it has not received new appropriations from the state this school year because of the budget stalemate.
Today, students and college officials headed to Springfield to make their voices heard.
Among those who met with legislative leaders is Governor State University (GSU) President Elaine Maimon. Maimon and eight other public university presidents say they pressed House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin to reach a budget agreement in the absence of any appropriations this school year going to Illinois public colleges and universities.
“We’re operating on a debit card type of budget,” says Maimon, who has seen her university’s state appropriation drop from more than $28 million in 2010 to a little over $24 million last year. The lack of a state budget comes at a time when GSU’s enrollment has gone up 5.4 percent over last year, following the university’s expansion.
Maimon says her university is doing much more with much less by reallocating resources. One casualty of the funding crisis has been the closure of a Naperville facility. Professors also have had to take on more responsibilities in the form of larger class sizes but Maimon says many of those classes were under-enrolled. Still, Maimon says she feels a responsibility to “carry” the student body since many of them are minority students and the first in their families to attend college.
Maimon says a small number of students who can afford to do so have left her university to go to colleges out of state. But her greater fear is losing some who have no other options for higher education.
The college presidents offered to provide the best of their “think tank” resources to help lawmakers reach a compromise. Asked about the possibility of the stalemate dragging on, Maimon remains optimistic, saying, “They [the General Assembly] just have to get this done soon.”