CSU cancels spring break to shorten semester, save money

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Chicago State University students and supporters demonstrate outside 300 N. LaSalle St. on Feb. 8. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Running out of cash during a state budget stalemate, Chicago State University is skipping spring break to save money on a shortened semester.

The canceled break is the “latest measure the university must take in order to fulfill our commitment to complete the spring semester,” the South Side school’s president, Thomas J. Calhoun, said in a memo Tuesday. “Please be assured that the university is doing all it can to minimize disruption and anxiety.”

The second semester now will end on April 30 instead of May 13. Graduation also now will be earlier than planned — on April 28 now that the March 14-19 break is gone.

CSU is one of many state schools stuck in Illinois’ budget stalemate. But with a predominantly minority student body of about 4,500 students, it’s perhaps the hardest hit by the lack of higher education funding resulting from an eight-month impasse between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-majority General Assembly.

The school depends on the state for about 30 percent of its funding. Without the funds, the Higher Learning Commission, its accrediting body, said the accreditation of public state universities is at risk.

CSU students have taken to rallying on their 95th Street campus and blocking the Dan Ryan Expressway to draw attention to their plight. Then they took their cause to the State of Illinois building in the Loop to the office of the governor, who had said in January that the school “was throwing money down the toilet” because of its vast differences in graduating African-American and white students.

As a student leader active in the protests, Charles Preston was among them then. He was also at a meeting Tuesday when CSU’s administration broke the news about spring break — news he saw coming.

That’s because school leaders previously said the school had only enough cash to get through February and would close by March 1 without state help or major cuts.

“We don’t know what faculty or administration would lose their jobs, what services would be cut, but our president is certain we will get through the semester by any means necessary,” said Preston, a senior.

“A lot of us are angry we have to cancel spring break because of the incompetence of our government,” he continued. “It’s ridiculous.”

Calhoun also encouraged students to register as early as possible for summer and fall classes.

“We remain optimistic that Chicago State University’s future is bright, in spite of the setbacks that we now must endure due to the budget challenge,” he wrote.

Chicago State University spring break memo

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