In the wake of the state budget battle, ripples have now moved from the Illinois Statehouse. Unable to pass a state budget for 10 months, Gov. Rauner and the Illinois House, have sent ripples throughout the state.
Illinois Universities, which rely on partial state funding, have recently made difficult decisions about future funding. Most notably, Chicago State University has already shortened its school year and faces the possibility of hundreds of layoffs, but CSU isn’t the only university facing fiscal concerns.
Among the schools which receive state funding, three have law schools: Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois. In the past year alone, NIU has received recognition for being one of the best law schools for small law and one of the nation’s most underrated law schools. Additionally, the University of Illinois moved from a #41 ranking in 2015 to a #26 ranking in 2016 (startclass.com).
On paper, it would seem that our law schools are improving despite the lack of funds, but the truth is quite different. The schools’ improvements have come as a result of academic practices and should not be attributed to restricting state funds. Currently, Northern Illinois University plans to receive $29 million less from the state with the University of Illinois plans to begin layoffs in the fall if a state budget is not reached.
While it is true that academic practices and improvements are not directly linked to state funding, it would be foolish of us to assume that restricting state dollars will not affect our universities. At a time when the quality and standard of education, at least in our publicly funded law schools, seems to be improving, restricting dollars which help fund those schools appears as punishment for a job well done.
As the budget stalemate continues, we must remember how our state intuitions flourished before the budget impasse and perhaps realize the true turnaround was happening before the Turnaround Agenda was even proposed.