Small, Mid-Sized Universities Get Extra Hit From Illinois Budget Impasse

May 17, 2017

Higher education has been among the areas feeling the state budget impasse as funding has been cut.  It has forced some schools to reduce classes, lay off employees and, in some cases, close for several days.

Sarah Brune
Credit ilcampaign.org

But a review of enrollment indicates small and mid-sized public universities are taking a double hit.  

“We found our large schools, our flagship schools, they are experiencing modest increases in enrollment over the past couple of years,” said Sarah Brune, Executive Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, “and that’s on trend with some other states.” 

Brune said the study was conducted to see the effects of the impasse on the educational institutions. The small and mid-sized schools are seeing declines, meaning not only reduced state funds but also fewer tuition dollars.

Over both two-year and five-year time frames, some schools have seen big drops in the number of students enrolled.

“We wanted to look into that and use enrollment, which is only one of the many factors you can look at,” she added. The ICPR also compared the two-year enrollment changes to schools in some other states.

“We saw that our small schools -- while other states are experiencing trends of enrollment growth up to 8 percent over the past couple of years -- our schools experienced decreases of about 10 percent,” she said.

Although the budget impasse could be playing a big role, it doesn’t account for all of the enrollment declines, which is a long-term trend at some schools. But Brune said the impasse is playing a role currently and points out repercussions that are hard to ignore.

“One thing we want to look at further are MAP grants,” Brune said.  Those Monetary Award Program grants are administered by the state to help cover tuition and other costs for students who qualify. Many of those grants have not come through during the impasse.

“Some students have literally slipped through the cracks and have had to leave their school,” she said.

It appears more students also are considering attending colleges in other states. “If there is the fear of that happening,” Brune said of the lack of MAP grants, “of course students are going to want to pursue other options because they want stability.”