Illinois university forced to lay off 200 workers -

Illinois university forced to lay off 200 workers

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By Katie Lobosco

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Eastern Illinois University laid off 198 staff members this week, and the college president is blaming the state legislature.

The cuts impact 13% of the school's employees. Support staff -- like those who work in the food, housing, and building maintenance departments -- were the hardest hit.

Professors escaped the cuts, but some of the remaining administrative staff members will be required to take one furlough day a week, starting March 1.

University President David Glassman says he has to make the cuts because lawmakers have not released funding for public colleges in the past eight months. They are a "direct result" of the missing funds, he said in a message posted to the university's website.

Eastern Illinois and the state's 11 other public universities have been waiting for state funds because of the budget stalemate between a Republican governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature. The 48 community colleges in Illinois are also waiting for the funding-- which can account for as much as 30% of the budget at some schools.

Lawmakers can't agree on how to fund the budget and the longer it takes, the longer public colleges and other state programs go without getting the money expected for the current fiscal year.

Additionally, money for state grants awarded to low-income students were never distributed, so Eastern and other colleges are covering that cost, too.

While the cash crunch has been looming since July, the layoffs at Eastern Illinois are the latest sign that some schools are tapped out and can't continue operating as usual.

The cuts were announced just three days after more than 1,000 people gathered at a campus rally, calling on lawmakers to fund the college. A mix of students, alumni, professors, staff, parents, and members of the local community showed up.

"We're concerned because we all love EIU," said Catie Witt, a junior who helped organize the rally.

"This isn't just a political game anymore, it's affecting the lives of workers in our state," she told CNNMoney.

State colleges were already facing tough times before the budget impasse. The state has seen the biggest drop in college enrollment in the past five years, compared to any other state. (In most states, enrollment has climbed.) That means less tuition revenue for the schools at a time when state funding has declined, too.

At Eastern Illinois University, enrollment fell 28% since 2007 and state funding declined 11% over the same time period. This year, it was expecting to receive $40 million from the state.

"Once we get an appropriation, we'll be OK, but right now we're stuck waiting," said Jack Cruikshank, a senior. He said he's gotten emails from professors asking students to print out worksheets themselves in order to save the school a little bit of money.

If the university receives state funding before March 12, many or all of the layoffs could be rescinded, President Glasser said. But lawmakers remain at an impasse, and the governor has called for an overall 32% cut to college funding.

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