In September 2016, the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) declared a state of emergency for the community college system due to the drastic loss of state revenue over the last two years. Colleges have struggled financially while waiting for the state’s General Assembly to pass a comprehensive balanced budget. Last June, lawmakers passed a stopgap budget, but that expired Dec. 31.
Seven of the state’s most vulnerable community colleges will now receive emergency funding from the ICCB to help them keep essential operations going. A total of $3 million will be divided evenly among Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Kaskaskia College, Lake Land College, John A. Logan College, Rend Lake College, Shawnee Community College, and Southeastern Community College.
These are districts with the least amount of local property tax funding. That means they will have the hardest time operating without state funding. They’ve also taken measures to reduce expenditures, which have required reducing staff and programs.
Despite the welcome funding, “community colleges across the state will continue to struggle without the adequate resources and predictability that comes with a full-year state budget and structural changes to fix the overall system,” ICCB Chair Lazaro Lopez said in a release.
Dealing with uncertainty
The state budget delay has also led to uncertainty about Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, which help low-income students pay for college. Joliet Junior College (JJC) fronted MAP funds totaling more than $1 million for more than 1,000 students for fall 2015 and spring 2016. JJC couldn’t continue to support the initiative for fall 2016.
The college’s board of trustees approved the 2016 tax levy in December in a move to help with state budget uncertainty, and JJC has made cuts elsewhere.
“We have continued to do our part during this difficult financial time—we’ve cut over $2 million from our operating budget over four years. We have developed creative revenue sources—actively seeking additional grants, for example—to offset operational costs. We have restricted travel, we’ve closed our Small Business Development Center, we have not filled vacant positions,” JJC Board Chair Bob Wunderlich said in a release.
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