Last week, when Southern Illinois University revealed that its main campus in Carbondale needs to borrow money from its Edwardsville location, the news seemed shocking. Who knew SIU was in such dire straits? It wasn’t the kind of news any school would want to broadcast.
But the truth is, with the state slashing support for higher education by almost 60 percent over the past two years, most college presidents have been in a pickle — unable to speak honestly about their desperate need for cash for fear of scaring off potential students.
Finally, just last week, someone said it out loud:
Republican Tom Cross, who was minority leader of the Illinois House for more than a decade and is now chair of the state board of higher education. Testifying before a senate panel, he called it "somewhat of a finesse game.
"And I don't want to use the word game in this, because it's not a game," Cross said. "But it's a finesse issue of — it's bad, but you don't want to talk about how bad it is because you don't... you want to keep students here in Illinois instead of Iowa or Missouri."
This fear is well-founded. In 2015, Illinois lost 45 percent of college-bound high school grads to colleges outside the state. There are no numbers yet for 2016, because the company that provides Illinois with that data hasn’t been paid. That voucher is just another bill on the big stack waiting in the comptroller’s office.