The Historic Budget Crisis That’s Threatening the Future of Public Colleges and Universities

Illinois’ budget standoff poses an existential threat to public higher education in the state.

In These Times and Kartemquin Films May 24, 2017

The budget crisis in Illinois has led to major cuts at Eastern Illinois University.

Illi­nois has not passed a real bud­get in near­ly two years, the first state to go that long with­out a bud­get since the Great Depres­sion. Repub­li­can Gov. Bruce Rauner has refused to sign off any bud­get that doesn’t also cur­tail col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights, lead­ing to a show­down with the state’s Democrats. 

Much atten­tion has been paid to the pol­i­tics of this fight, but what do the effects of the lin­ger­ing cri­sis look like in people’s day-to-day lives? Strand­ed by the State—an 8‑part video series pro­duced in part­ner­ship with Kartemquin Films — fol­lows the fam­i­lies, work­ers and stu­dents liv­ing through these de fac­to bud­get cuts, show­ing the ways they dete­ri­o­rate the fab­ric of Illi­nois communities.

The series incor­po­rates data con­nect­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Illi­nois to long-term trends of aus­ter­i­ty nation­wide — includ­ing the stag­ger­ing cuts pro­posed in Pres­i­dent Trump’s first budget.

This episode spot­lights the effects of the Illi­nois bud­get cri­sis on pub­lic high­er edu­ca­tion. In the face of increas­ing cuts to fund­ing, total enroll­ment has plum­met­ed across Illi­nois state uni­ver­si­ties in recent years. At the same time, tuition has increased for stu­dents by near­ly 25 percent. 

This sit­u­a­tion has led to sky­rock­et­ing stu­dent debt and pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties that are strug­gling to keep their doors open. But as this episode shows, stu­dents, pro­fes­sors and state res­i­dents are fight­ing back to save pub­lic high­er ed.

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