Keeping classes going vs. borrowing trouble

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This isn’t a point of discussion that comes up in a humanities class, but it’s still a philosophical question: Should public universities get the authority to borrow money for bills they can’t pay because the state owes them millions of dollars?

Late last week, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 642, which if signed by the governor could temporarily solve cash flow woes at Illinois’ universities, who are owed more than $700 million by the state.

The effort was spearheaded by Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard, who had to use every trick in the book just to make payroll and pay his vendors this year. And there’s no guarantee that next year won’t be worse.

“All of the public universities – they are all really hurting,” Poshard said back in February. “I don’t know what other route to go.”

But interim University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry said last month he thinks it is “a terrible piece of legislation.”

Ikenberry said interest on such borrowing could cost universities $10 to $20 million, which is money they don’t have.

“If there is going to be borrowing done, the state ought to do the borrowing, not 14 different state universities,” Ikenberry said.

But then again, Ikenberry also said it’s possible at least one of the state’s universities might shut down next year if the state doesn’t pay its bills, and he knows it’s a safe bet that legislators wouldn’t let its flagship school be the one that does.

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