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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

More Layoffs at Western Illinois University

Rich Egger

In a letter to the campus community, WIU President Jack Thomas said around 110 university workers will receive layoff notices within the next week.

Thomas told Tri States Public Radio the university is grappling with the state budget stalemate and a lack of answers from Springfield about when money might come through.

“Therefore, we have to move and do some more drastic kinds of things to make sure that we continue to move our university forward,” he said.

Credit Rich Egger
WIU President Jack Thomas

Those receiving the notices could include administrative, civil service, and clerical employees.  They will not include faculty members.  Employees will be given a 30-day notice before the layoffs take effect.

Western – and Illinois’ other public universities – have yet to receive their state appropriation for the fiscal year that began more than nine months ago.  “That’s unheard of. We never thought we would go this long,” said Thomas. “It is really jeopardizing higher education in our state, and it is tarnishing the reputation of higher education in our state.”

And the schools still don’t even know how much money to expect once a funding agreement is reached.

In addition, colleges and universities have covered the cost of the MAP grant program for needy students.  The state owes Western around $11 million in MAP grant funds.

In late February Western announced a goal of reducing spending by $4 million for the remainder of the fiscal year.  As part of that plan, more than 500 non-union employees were ordered to take either furlough days or pay reductions, but Thomas said that saved just $1.5 million.

He said more money – and jobs – would be saved if the administration could reach an agreement on furloughs with the University Professionals of Illinois and/or AFSCME.  But talks have thus far yielded no agreement.

“We are still negotiating. The various groups are negotiating. And as we have said throughout this fiscal year, we’ve been very hopeful. But we have not gotten anything at this point,” Thomas said.

He said the Fraternal Order of Police is the only employee union that has agreed to a furlough program.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.